“The roots of pottery and agriculture run deep in the rich soil of North Carolina. Pottery and wine go together very well,” says Don Hudson of D.K. Clay, and so goes the basis for the 11th Annual Sanford Pottery Festival.
When Hudson created the Sanford Pottery Festival, he may not have realized that in a short amount of time, he would be at the helm of the largest pottery festival in North Carolina.
“It’s always the weekend before Mother’s Day and we’re coming up on our 11th annual event. That’s special in itself, because a lot of events don’t have that kind of track record,” he said.
With Mother’s Day falling on Sunday, May 13 this year, that puts the festival the weekend of May 5-6 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center at 1801 Nash St.in Sanford.
The festival boasts an attendance record of nearly 60,000 visitors over the years. The draw is quality North Carolina craftsmanship.
“There is said to be more than 1,500 potters in North Carolina. It is a state famous nationally for its pottery. Sanford is part of the famous Seagrove area potteries, including Randolph, Moore, Montgomery, Chatham and Lee counties,” explains Hudson.
In fact, the Sanford Pottery Festival is an offshoot of the Seagrove Pottery Festival, which takes place in November and is in its 31st year.
“We regard the Seagrove Pottery Festival as a sister event, and the feeling is mutual,” says Hudson
.Linda Russell and Alicia Stone are the festival’s featured potters. Both potters were students of Kenneth Neilson of D.K. Clay and have participated in each Sanford Pottery Festival since its inception.
“Most of our potters have 25 years of experience or more and we are always cultivating new talent. We tend to attract some of the best, most established potters. If you want to see some highly accomplished potters, this is the show,” says Hudson. More than 100 potters are exhibiting their artwork at the show.
Pottery, like all art, merits a competitive price.
“Pottery is not the cheapest thing in the world, but you can get good quality pieces for $10 to $50. We’ve had pieces that sold for upwards of $15,000. We have a wide range. And we have more than pottery. Eighty percent is pottery, but there is also traditional arts and crafts.”
Festival visitors can stroll through the exhibits sipping wine from the Wine Tasting Event. The wine tasting is held in an 8,000 sq. foot tent and features more than 10 North Carolina wineries.
“North Carolina is famous for its wine as well as its pottery,” said Hudson. “In Colonial times, North Carolina was the largest producer of wines.”
“North Carolina wine tradition is based on muscadine and scuppernong grapes and those are generally sweet wines. We also have a large selection of dry European wines. But all of them are made in North Carolina,” Hudson continued.
Hudson wanted to be sure that Sanford’s surrounding military community felt welcome at the festival. As a show of appreciation, all active-duty and retired military members, along with one adult guest, are admitted to the festival free of charge.
“We have found that military members love experiencing local culture. These are people who have been all over the world. They check out local culture and local food. And when we talk to them in our shop in Sanford, we hear them talking about the ceramics in Germany or the Netherlands and the local wine. So we thought it would be the great idea to invite the military to our event,” says Hudson.Hudson hopes the military community will pay the gesture forward by sharing North Carolina crafts with friends and family.
“Military members like buying local wine and pottery and sending it all over the United States,” says Hudson.
“Many would be proud to own North Carolina pottery and use it; because the best pottery is meant to be functional, pure and simple.”
In addition to the pottery exhibit and wine tasting, there is paint-your-own-pottery for children and a Saturday evening dinner catered by Two Brother Cookin’ and featuring the music of Robert Watson with his band, Fog & Guests. The dinner is $10 per plate and starts at 5:30 p.m.
Hours for the festival are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is $5 with children 16 and under free of charge. Wine tasting admission is an additional $1.
For more information, please visit www.sanfordpotteryfestival.org.
Photo top: Phil Morgan working on a vase.