Harold Uthlaut looked at home Sunday in the Hearnes Center Fieldhouse, though he lives 50 miles northwest in Glasgow. The 76-year-old, sporting blue jeans, suspenders and a contagious smile, couldn’t help but offer a word or two to those passing his stand of wood crafts.
“Go ahead, pick it up … that’s made of tin, this is cast iron … that’s included with it,” he said as three different people glanced his direction.
Hundreds of mid-Missourians sidestepped through aisles with the smell of cinnamon and country candles in the air to browse and buy from the more than 300 vendors like Uthlaut who crowded into the Hearnes Center for the 19th annual Fall Art and Craft Show.
Linda Vollrath and Mary Triebsch of Pilot Grove left their husbands at home to peruse the merchandise.
“We always go to the shows together,” Vollrath said. “I go looking for decorations for the house, and this time of year there’s a lot of Christmas stuff that catches my eye.”
Uthlaut sells almost anything he can make out of wood, including Christmas decorations. It’s not just making the crafts that make the former grain-elevator manager happy. Picking up a wooden pop gun, he stopped a little girl in her tracks as a tiny piece of cork tapped her in the back.
“Whoops! I got you,” he said as the she turned around, surprised but happy.
“I really enjoy meeting new people, especially the kids. They really get a kick out of these little guns,” he said.
Uthlaut and his wife have been traveling to craft shows for almost 20 years, doing 15 shows a year.
Sharon Heinz and her husband, Mike, are both retired and have made a lot of friends at the more than 20 shows they attend per year. Mike Heinz is a retired wood shop instructor and still enjoys the craft. He uses exotic woods from South America, Australia and Africa to craft writing utensils.
“I wish I could say we’ve been to all the places his wood comes from,” Sharon Heinz said.
Not all are so well-traveled in the field, however. Ed Young of Columbia, a newcomer to the craft scene, set up shop selling boomerangs Sunday for only his second show. He has made boomerangs for about 12 years. Young, accompanied by his 11-year-old son Eric, said growing up he played with boomerangs but couldn’t get them to work. So in college he started doing research. With the help of the Internet he has gained a lot of knowledge about how to craft and throw the devices.
“The little cheap ones you buy at a store won’t come back to you and they’re not made to,” he said. “Every boomerang I sell I have thrown and caught myself.”
Even if someone buys a boomerang from him, Young said, it’s not easy to get the hang of throwing at first.
“There is skill involved with it,” he said. “They’re really not toys. It’s a sporting act that you have to practice a bit.”
Just selling their products is the advice Triebsch, still shopping with her friend, said she’d give to the vendors.
“There’s a higher quality of product, and you can normally trust the people selling, because you know they put so much effort into their crafts,” she said.