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Over the past 15 years, the Catawba Valley Pottery and Antiques Festival has turned into quite a show.
Vendors and visitors alike say itâ€™s a â€śbig dealâ€ť â€” one that drew out dozens of ticketholders nearly 10 hours before the doors to the Hickory Metro Convention Center opened Friday night.
Dr. Allen Huffman, the festivalâ€™s founder and director, said at least eight people waited in camper chairs for entry to the 7 p.m. gala show when he arrived early Friday morning.
â€śEveryone wants to get in, find their favorite potter and get it before anyone else does,â€ť Huffman said.
There are more than 100 renowned potters at this yearâ€™s festival, along with a handful of antique vendors. Huffman said he expects buyers and visitors from 12-15 states around the Southeast, in addition to Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
The Friday Night Gala sold 400 tickets, and event organizers expect even more people at today's festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $6 for adults and $2 for children age 12 and younger.
Walking around and perusing the many vendors at the festival, itâ€™s easy to see the difference in folk art and traditional pottery from region to region.
â€śThe Catawba Valley Alkaline Glaze tradition has been going on for 200 years,â€ť Huffman said. â€śIt started off with some German settlers, but has grown to include other families and ancestries. Our tradition is one of the most prominent traditions in North Carolina in the southeast.â€ť
Another popular and renowned group of potters at the festival hail from the Seagrove area, near Asheboro.
Terry King and his wife, Anna, are among the many potter families from Seagrove that have been displaying and selling their art at the festival for 15 years.
Most of Kingâ€™s work revolves around folk art and face jugs â€” something he called â€śold-timey pottery.â€ť
â€śMost of the pots have names because they have personalities,â€ť King said, adding that a pot with a long necktie was named â€śOliver.â€ť â€śThis is fun, plus you get to be a little more creative. What good is pottery if it ainâ€™t fun?â€ť
Since coming to the inaugural festival in 1998, King has watched the annual event grow.
â€śThe show and the folk art itself is what draws people. Thereâ€™s not much anything like it,â€ť he said. â€śEverybody has a little different style. You just walk by their booth and you can tell that. If you do pottery, you see a lot of different things here and there are a lot of good people to draw from.â€ť
Rosa and Winton Eugene are potters who have also attended the festival for 15 years.
The Eugenes, who hail from Cowpens, S.C., have been making pottery since 1986.
â€śWe love making the pottery, but itâ€™s just coming out here, making the people and hearing everyoneâ€™s story that is enjoyable,â€ť Rosa said.
â€śItâ€™s really the people that make it interesting.â€ť
The non-profit festival benefits the Catawba County Historical Association, as well as the N.C. Potters Association in Seagrove.
For ticket information or more of the festivalâ€™s history, visit catawbavalleypotteryfestival.org.