PERRY -- Jean Steele has sold her wares at the Mossy Creek Barnyard Festival ever since it began 35 years ago.
I dont know if it has really changed all that much, said Steele, who sells handmade clowns, sock puppets and balloons. Its the same number of exhibitors. You still have pretty good crowds. The weather has a lot to do with it. Its like a habit, Ive been doing it so long.
Julee Torrance, whose parents, E.B. and Carolyn Chester, created the festival on the land they own in Perry near Lake Joy, said her family hasnt tried to tinker with what has been a successful formula.
Its a great atmosphere, she said. The crafters are like family. They greet (customers) with a hug. Theyre just good ol southern folk. Theyre great with (attendees), and that makes a difference.
Torrance said one major change will occur in 2013, with the family eliminating the spring version of the festival that took place every April in order to concentrate on making the October version bigger and better.
Were focusing on improving (the fall) one, she said. After 35 years, the land is taking a little bit of a beating.
The basics, however, wont change -- good food, horse rides, a petting zoo, live music and dozens of artisans selling all sorts of hand-crafted items.
Its not a festival where an artist can simply set up a booth, Torrance said. Theres a rigorous screening process in which a jury has to judge whether or not the crafter is worthy of space at the festival.
They have to show and prove that they can do their own thing, she said. We want unusual crafts that give a little different look, so people can enjoy it.
Jim Gasser, an Alabama-based potter, was showing his pottery items for the first time ever at the festival.
Its been quite good, he said. I havent really been able to walk around and see a lot because Im the only one (operating the booth), but business has been good.
Regina Coffee, who makes model homes and structures out of clay, has been coming to the festival for the past six or seven years. She said the recession caused business to drop off for three or four years, but it has started to pick back up.
When I first came here, the economy was a lot better, so all of us made more money, she said. It seems to have picked up this year. Its good for us, the vendors. People have really come here to buy.
Alan Lyme of Perry, who was at the festival with his wife, daughter and son, said he prefers the festival to the Georgia National Fair, which ends the week before Mossy Creek.
Its a nice event, he said. It brings in a lot of people from around the state. I like it more than the national fair, because its not as crowded and the people are more welcoming.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.