BAKER — When the chips are down, it means Bill Alford or Carl Commander are making another cypress shingle.
The men returned to the Baker Heritage Day festival and, as in years past, their artisanship and skill were top attractions during a day in which traditional local culture was front and center.
Using traditional tools and methods, the men sent wood chips flying through the spicy-scented air, the fragrant aroma of freshly hewn wood rising as they shaved each shingle precisely to size.
Nearby, an old-fashioned John Deere motor sputtered along, churning the dasher inside a large wooden ice cream bucket. The warm, sunny day made the cold treats especially welcome to Rebecca Smith, 7, who smiled as she sampled a dish and pronounced it “good!”
Organizers from the North Okaloosa Heritage Association, which produces the annual event at the Heritage Park adjacent to their Baker Block Museum, were pleased with the turnout; a News Bulletin reporter observed an estimated 200 patrons while attending. But museum and association Director Ann Spann said attendance didn’t reach past levels.
“We’ve had more people before but there were so many events that day,” she said. “But we were happy and I think everybody enjoyed it.”
While wood chips flew around Alford and Commander, on the other side of the park, sparks flew as smithies hammered glowing metal heated in a small forge with a hand-cranked blower. Inside the cabins, costumed re-enactors demonstrated domestic tasks, including churning fresh butter from cream, making applesauce and toffee, quilting and spinning yarn.
From the music tent came the sounds of area musicians, including the Convalescent Crooners, a group that frequently performs in nursing homes. Crestview personality and long-time Main Street barber Mack Brooks and his band closed the festival with fiddling and songs he’s sung on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville.
Colonial frontiersman re-enactor John Butler took a break to sway on the dogtrot house’s porch swing until Danny Turner and his pals, Hunter Polhlopek and Wyatt Shumway, came along and asked to look at Butler’s muzzle-loading rifle.
Danny, a member of Baker School’s Junior ROTC battalion, confidently hoisted the heavy weapon to his shoulder and drew a bead on a distant target.
“This gun stays where you aim it,” he said.
The number of vintage automobiles on display increased this year, with a collection of Ford Model A’s and at least one Model T parked under the shade trees across the side driveway. A petting zoo, including owls from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, and a duo of rare Staffordshire pigs, was nearby.
Attendees browsed crafts and homemade jams, jellies, honey, produce and scented molded soaps — the latter was a byproduct of the pigs’ predecessors from the same farm. Brothers from Munson Red Rock Masonic Lodge fried crisp pork cracklin’s.
The heritage association noted brisk sales of its new “Lost North Okaloosa” calendar, a fund-raiser for the non-profit organization that features historic north county photos.
The calendars are still on sale at the museum.
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