Melrose Arts & Craft Festival: April 21-22

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The 44th annual Melrose Plantation Arts and Crafts Festival has been scheduled for April 21 and 22, according to Harry Thompson, chairman for the event. The festival is sponsored by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) and annually attracts more than 2,000 visitors during the two-day event.

Each year the festival features more the 100 vendors from several states. Among the items offered in past years were original works of art, photographs, stained glass windows, handmade jewelry, plants, gourmet pickles and jellies, clothing, toys, woodworking products, pottery, and other arts and crafts objects. Located in southern Natchitoches Parish on State Highway 119, Melrose Plantation has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The property features eight historic structures dating to the 1800’s. Guided tours will be available for two of the buildings: the big house and the African House.

Melrose Plantation was a sanctuary for many artists and writers during the “Southern Renaissance” in the early 20th century and served as a temporary home for several well-recognized artists and writers. Lyle Saxon wrote his best-known novel, “Children of Strangers,” while living at Melrose. His tale was based on the culture of the plantation and the Cane River area. Francois Mignon resided at Melrose for 32 years and wrote his “Plantation Memo” and several thousand pages of journal entries during that time.

Probably the best-knows artist to live at Melrose was Clementine Hunter, an internationally-renowned primitive artist who worked as a field hand, house keeper, and finally as a cook at the plantation. She was a self-taught artist who began painting using paints and brushes that were discarded by an artist in residence. Many of Hunter’s works are on display in the plantation house at Melrose. Her most unique work, a series of murals depicting life in the Cane River area, are displayed in the African House.

The other structures on the Melrose Plantation grounds include Clementine Hunter’s house, the Bindery, the Yucca House, the Writer’s Cabin, the Weaving House, the Barn, the Ghana House, and the Ice House.

The festival will open at 9:00 a.m. on the first day and will open at 10:00 a.m. on the second day. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6-11. Tickets for the guided tours of the big house are $5. Viewing of the other buildings and self-guided tours of the grounds, which feature centuries old live oak trees and various flower beds, are included with the entry fee. Additional information about Melrose Plantation and the Arts and Crafts Festival may be found at www.melroseplantation.org.

Photo by Bill Ebarb