The 44nd annual Melrose Plantation Arts and Crafts Festival is scheduled for this weekend, April 21-22, according to Vicki Parrish, president of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN) and event sponsor.
More than 100 vendors will feature a myriad of hand-made items, many of which are one-of-a-kind. Among the items available to visitors will be original art works, stained glass, gourmet pickles and jellies, hand-made jewelry, clothing, photographs, plants, toys, woodworking products, wrought iron artwork, pottery and many other kinds of arts and crafts.
Melrose Plantation, located on Highway 119 in southern Natchitoches Parish, is a National Historic Landmark featuring eight historic structures. Guided tours of the plantation home, the “Big House,” will be available. Guides will also be present at the African House to explain its recent renovation and the display of the restored Clementine Hunter murals, which have returned to their original home.
The featured band, Reverend Charley’s Patent Medicine Show, is led by Charles “Reverend Charley” Ward who grew up in a musical family. The Reverend’s folk music reflects his earliest music memories of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, and Bob Dylan, all of whom influenced his style.
This year the newest addition to the Festival is ceramic demonstrations by NSU graduate students, James Stringer, Millard Mangrum, and NSU professors Patrick Ramke and Matt DeFord.
Many renowned writers and artists visited and lived at the plantations. Probably the best known resident of Melrose was Clementine Hunter, who came to the plantation as a field hand and taught herself how to paint using paints and brushes discarded by an artist. Hunter’s paintings have gained national and international notoriety, and some of her works hang in the Louvre in Paris. She is one of the most recognized primitive artists in Louisiana history, and her home is among the historic structures at Melrose.
The festival is sponsored by APHN and annually attracts more than 2,000 visitors during the two-day event. The Melrose Arts and crafts Festival will open at 9 am on Saturday and at 10 am on Sunday. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6-12. Tickets for tours of the Big House are $5. Self-guided tours of the grounds and viewing of all the historic buildings are free.