BAKER — Saturday’s Baker Heritage Festival drew more exhibitors and attendees than ever before, North Okaloosa Heritage Association members, the event’s organizers, said.
Establishing actual attendance figures is impossible, association and Baker Block Museum Director Ann Spann said, but just by observing crowds, they knew they surpassed previous years' attendance.
Many exhibitors praised student volunteers from Baker School’s JROTC battalion, who helped erect tents, tote display materials and assisted at the heritage association's table.
"The Baker ROTC (had) outdone themselves," association member Phyllis Enzor said. "They were here before we got started and (they were) here helping take down."
Under a blue autumn sky, people came from throughout Northwest Florida and Southern Alabama to hear bluegrass and gospel music, sample treats and observe demonstrations of folk arts, crafts and traditional pioneer practices at more than 60 stands.
James and Susie Lowery, who visited from Red Level, Ala., enjoyed sampling Georgia cornbread at Betty McLeod's stand. The Baker woman was one of several vendors selling the sweet cake.
"This is good," James Lowery said.
Mayberry to NW Florida
Many attendees were delighted to see former Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Elsie Garrett; ill health had kept her homebound for nearly two years.
She joined her husband, J.T., who displayed his vintage 1960s Ford Galaxy police car, with a "Mayberry Sheriff's Office" seal. He costumed as Barney Fife, the deputy on "The Andy Griffith Show."
"I think more people are happier to see Elsie than me," J.T. said.
Inside Heritage Park's log cabins, Florida State Parks re-enactor Anne Harvey cooked a traditional harvest stew of apples, prunes, rice and pork meat over the open hearth.
Across the room, her sister, Mary Ellen Wexler, churned butter in an antique hand-cranked churn, while the women's mother, Ernestine Harvey, supervised from her fireside chair.
Such demonstrations, which included cypress shingle making, quilting and blacksmithing, supplemented Baker Block Museum exhibits and regional historic societies’ displays.
Outside, vintage Model T and Model A Ford cars and trucks attracted many attendees.
Retired Baker School teachers Kay and Roger O'Neal paused periodically to study displays and chat with exhibitors, but more often receive former students’ greetings.
"This area is rich in history," Roger O'Neal said. "What a great day to come out and see it."