COLUMBIA — Jeff Goris wielded a rawhide mallet and stake to make small, neat dents on a piece of tin-plated steel. Goris, a tinsmith of Licking dressed in 19th-century attire, was one of the artisans demonstrating their crafts at the 34th Annual Heritage Festival at Nifong Park.
The Festival began Saturday and continues Sunday. Other attractions include a replica outpost and cowboy camp, a craft sale, stage performances and concessions.
For updates about the 34th Annual Heritage Festival and for weather-related cancellation information, call the hotline number at 847-7663 or go to GoColumbiaMo.com.
Goris, a retired high school industrial arts teacher, shared a tent near the Ponderosa Street entrance with his wife, Betty, who demonstrated rag weaving. He has been a tinsmith since 1989.
He said tinning started in Germany, but the English actually perfected the art in the early 1700s. Although the U.S. had tin deposits, it imported all of its tin-plated steel from England until the late 1800s. At that time, the product was produced in 10-inch-by-14-inch sheets. When making large items, tinsmiths would have to piece the sheets together.
Tin products were popularized in part by traveling peddlers, who were the middlemen between the tinsmith and those who used their products, Jeff Goris said. “It was a common material back in the old day ... It was referred to as poor man’s silver.”
Today, Goris said, finding old tin tools is difficult, but he's managed to acquire and restore some of them. Goris also makes ornate cups, boxes, coffee pots and lanterns as he continues to keep his craft alive.
“I try to make reproductions of original pieces, whenever possible,” Goris said.
Small groups and families stopped to watch Goris work and to ask questions.
At one of the two park stages, Judy Domeny Bowen performed. Domeny Bowen, a kindergarten and first-grade art teacher from Rogersville, played guitar and sang original pieces along with old-time folk music.
Domeny Bowen said she has lived on an 80-acre family farm all her life. The themes of the songs she sang reflected her rural roots.
She performed the traditional folk song "Old Blue".
“This one’s about a hound dog,” Domeny Bowen said.
She’s been the owner of many different dogs over the years and said that even though most were border collies, "Old Blue" makes her think of them.
“Oh blue, you good dog, you,” Domeny Bowen sang, while she strummed her guitar.
People shifted in and out of the tent where she sang to eat lunch — a pulled-pork sandwich, funnel cake and kettle corn — and to listen.
As Domeny Bowen ended her set, she smiled and said, “I love coming to this festival. I love inhaling the scent of curly fries.”
Behind the stage, food vendors put up their tents and stationed their trailers. As Domeny Bowen said, the smell of food was thick in the air. Options included various fried foods, jerk chicken, barbecue and kettle corn.
Mike and Pam Franke, owners and cooks of Franke’s Kettle Korn, stood beside an oversize kettle under a canvas tent. A faint whirr could be heard as Mike Franke stirred the popcorn with a big wooden paddle.
The couple came from Novelty, where they own a row-crop and livestock farm. The Frankes started by helping some neighbors with their kettle corn business. With encouragement from those neighbors, they began their own business in 1996.
Mike Franke said when they started out on their own, the Heritage Festival got them to come, “so we just keep coming."
“Sugar corn is pretty common in Europe,” Mike Franke said. It’s a tradition that went along with butchering hogs. After rendering the lard, popcorn kernels were dropped into the same hot, greasy kettle.
The Frankes' recipe is simple. Mike Franke said they pop big, yellow kernels and then add the sugar.
“It gives a light, sweet glaze,” Mike Franke said.