Missouri leatherworkers offer goods at Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival

Sunday, October 14, 2012 | 7:48 p.m. CDT; updated 8:36 p.m. CDT, Sunday, October 14, 2012
More than 20,000 people were estimated to have attended the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival this weekend.

HARTSBURG — Scattered showers and dropping temperatures didn't stop Missouri leather-workers from showcasing their handmade creations at the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival.

On Saturday and Sunday, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people visited the town of just around 100 residents, said Ron Skiles, a sergeant with the Boone County Sheriff's Department and this year's "pumpkin king."

This year's festival brought in 266 vendors, selling goods ranging from homemade salsas to soaps to tutus.

Tom Moyer, 60, of Trapper Tom's Trading Post, has been handcrafting leatherwear for 25 years.

"In 1987, I went to my first rendezvous, and I saw all kinds of stuff being hand made," Moyer, of St. Charles, said. "I got interested in it and decided, 'Well, I can do some of those things.'"

Moyer explained a rendezvous as the "primitive encampment of the trappers back in the 1840s." He said that's where people would buy, sell and trade. A modern day rendezvous entails meeting with others to engage in 19th century-inspired lifestyle and dress and a barter economy.

Moyer purchases his leather from a man in Kentucky, and he buys in bulk — usually about 100 pounds — which keeps the retail prices down.

"I try to get the price down, so that I make a little bit of a profit but not a killing," Moyer said. 

He attends about 15 festivals each year to sell his leather goods and animal hides. At the various rendezvous Moyer visits, he often buys animal parts such as antlers or cow bones to use in making handbags and other leather products.

Moyer briefly described the process he took to make a particular black leather handbag.

"I cut my own patterns," Moyer said. "I punch my own holes ... all those holes around here ... it's all my own design. Then, I lace it all up and make it."

Marty Clardy, otherwise known as “Grumpy,” from Paris, Mo., has been in the leather-working business for almost 20 years. Clardy, of Pol-Kat Trading, has been coming to the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival “90 percent of the time in the last five or six years.”

All of the leather Clardy uses is commercially tanned, as opposed to hand-tanned, he said.

After getting involved in the leather-working business through a friend, he then started traveling to different re-enactments across the country where he sells his leather creations.

“I used to travel from Texas to Minnesota, Wisconsin and the fur trade area,” he said. “There’s a lot of history there.”

It wasn’t until Clardy began working with leather that he developed an interest in the history that is associated with the process.

“I hated history until I started portraying living history,” he said. “It makes it a little bit more fun.”

Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.

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