Folk School: Festival of Learnshops

A sixteen-day traditional arts and crafts festival in Berea, Kentucky

Photo: Berea Tourism

A master picker teaches the finer points of the frailing banjo at Kentucky's Festival of Learnshops

WHEN TO GO: First held in 2011, the sixteen-day festival dedicated to traditional arts and crafts kicks off Saturday, July 13, with small-group, hands-on workshops scattered around this central Kentucky town.

WHAT TO EXPECT: It’s hard to imagine a quicker, more convenient way to dabble in some dreamed-of pursuit, sharpen your skills at a hobby, or just take a shot at something new. The first weekend alone offers sessions in introductory blacksmithing, watercolors, Japanese bonsai arrangements with Shimpaku juniper, glassblowing, beginning clawhammer technique (bring your own banjo), and basic wood turning taught by Berea College master craftsman and furniture maker Chester Mullins, as well as dozens of others. Sessions last from two hours to five days, are limited to as few as three participants, and cost as little as $25, including materials. Register in advance online, or just amble into the Berea Welcome Center and ask what classes still have slots open. Later options include printmaking and a “dulcimer weekend” with four sessions in two days and optional concerts.

TYPICAL DAY: Rise and shine at the Doctor’s Inn, an antiques-furnished Greek Revival bed-and-breakfast within strolling distance of Berea’s Old Town District. After a morning fix at Stella Jane’s Bakery—an apple fritter, a glazed jelly doughnut, or both—it’s off to class (many of the courses begin at 9:30 a.m.). You might catch the early session of Introduction to Blacksmithing, taught by Berea grad Jeff Farmer (bring safety glasses and ear protection—this is the real deal), from which you’ll take away your very own original forged artwork. Grab a pimento cheeseburger or Thai pork and noodle salad at Historic Boone Tavern (the adjoining inn also offers special festival rates). Then, drop in on the afternoon cutting boards class at Steve Farmer’s Bittersweet Studio, where three hours of your time yields three boards you crafted by hand.

GETTING THERE: Berea is less than an hour’s drive south of Lexington along I-75.

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