Visit the Labor Day Arts & Crafts Festival at the Pine Community Center this weekend and enjoy some small-town history along with terrific works, great food and fun.
A Rim Country legend has it that in 1980 a small group of artists and crafters from a local arts and crafts club decided to get a booth at the Northern Gila County Fair — then held in Pine — to share their love of handmade craftsmanship with others, showcase the work of local residents and generate funds to help their small community.
The excellence in craftsmanship did not go unnoticed, attracting additional talented artists and craftspeople to the group and leading to the organization of the Mountain Arts and Crafts Festivals of Pine, celebrated during each big holiday weekend of every summer.
In 1994, the group reorganized and became the P/S Arts and Crafts Guild, an incorporated non-profit.
By then, the festivals had emerged as a venue for high quality, hand-crafted, juried art and craft work, with the artists sharing their pieces directly with guests and making the P/S area a premier destination for arts and crafts enthusiasts. Festivalgoers enjoyed meeting the artists and crafters and experiencing the works in progress in a variety of arts and crafts demonstrations.
Guild members jury in 80 to 85 festival exhibitors from the pool of applicants. Great care is taken to ensure that the media — whether painting, photography, jewelry, woodwork or other items — meet the Guild’s standards of quality assurance and are handmade by the artist/crafter. The items may not be manufactured.
From its beginnings, the group remained steadfast in its mission to spread enthusiasm for handmade craftsmanship, showcase the work of local, Arizona and Southwestern United States talent and raise money to help needy individuals, families and non-profit groups in P/S and the surrounding area.
Through the generosity of Guild members, numerous groups have benefited from festival proceeds. Among them are the P/S Food Bank, Firefighters Association, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library, P/S School, the Senior Citizens Affairs Foundation, Community Educational Recreational and Civic Association, and the P/S Archaeological and Historical Society.
Thanks to the efforts of the small group of volunteers, currently consisting of approximately 20 to 25 local artists and crafters, the community has benefited in countless ways.
Guild president Ruthellen Mason, who is a highly acclaimed landscape painter, is the current member in longest standing. She joined the group in 1993 and has been on the nine-member board of directors for nearly 12 years. She is the only active member who was with the group during the 1994 reorganization.
Talented seamstress and longtime Strawberry resident, Pat Miller, is the chairperson of the Arts and Crafts Guild Boutique located at the P/S Community Center.
The Community Center, which also houses the P/S Historical Society Museum, Cultural Hall, Thrift Store, Senior Dining Room and Pine library, is the venue for the Guild’s Arts and Crafts Festivals on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day weekends.
The quaint Boutique, housed between the Thrift Store and Senior Dining Room, displays items made by Guild members. A percentage of Boutique sales are donated to the community, in addition to the proceeds donated from their festivals. With Miller’s organizing and decorating skills, the Boutique conveys an inviting atmosphere appealing to customers, and is open for business during most town events.
When an active or potential vendor or festivalgoer has a question, who they gonna call? Gail Jones! For the past nine years, Jones has served as the Guild’s phone representative providing a consistent and knowledgeable point of contact.
Just as the festivals have become part of the tapestry of Pine and Strawberry, some vendors and festivalgoers have become an integral part of the festivals, returning show after show, year after year.
One popular artist is Shirley Swan who has participated for more than 20 years. Her work includes woodcarving, walking sticks, canes and carved-leather belts. She also has a following of customers who like adding pieces of her silver jewelry to their collections.
Bunny Freegard is a frequent vendor with popular and practical crafts. Her handmade items include hair ties and eyeglass holders that are well made and durable. In the heat of the 4th of July festival, her necktie items to stay cool fly out of the booth like hotcakes at the festival’s pancake breakfast.
Patrick Ellis is popular with kids crafting PVC bows and arrows, wooden rubber band guns, rifles, marshmallow blowguns and other fun items.
Mason said, “Although it may not be quite as popular as Smoky Bear, the firewise trailer is a regular attraction at our festivals. The important information dispensed helps us better protect our homes and forest and it is important to teach visitors who come to our fire-prone place in the pines.”
Current Guild officers are Ruthellen Mason, president; Lucy Sisco, vice president; Marla Diepstraten, secretary; and Pat Means, treasurer.
Guild membership is open to anyone who makes handmade arts and crafts (emphasizing made by hand) as well as anyone who loves handmade artwork or festivals and would like to participate.
The group meets at 9 a.m. the last Friday of every month in the Craft Boutique at the P/S Community Center. New members and visitors are always welcome.
For more information, visit the Web site at http://pinestrawberryartscrafts.com or come experience a festival this Labor Day weekend, Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1. Meet the dedicated artists and crafters in the Boutique and see how a love for handmade artwork has sustained the group for 33 years.