About the Mountain
"Hard Candy Christmas" show is the longest
running of the two events.
Hunter, Macon County, North Carolina native and artist, promotes both shows.
Doris says :"The Mountain Artisans Arts & Crafts Show started
in 1987 with a dream and only 8 exhibitors, including
"myself". The Mountain Artisans name did not come into
reality until many years later.
The "Hard Candy Christmas"
had small beginnings like all dreams. Doris envisioned a Christmas show in Franklin,
North Carolina that
would feature the area's best artisans. When she
mentioned her idea, not many of her artists friend were
enthused. They said: ”when the last leaf falls, no one is
here to buy arts and crafts and the locals will not support such
Undaunted, Doris convinced a few of her pals
to go along with her and "put on" a local holiday arts & crafts
The Friday and
Saturday after Thanksgiving was picked as it is the biggest
shopping day of the year. The first show was held in the
small Slagle Memorial Building in Franklin. The rock
building had a big fireplace so we called the show “The Fireside
Art & Craft Show. The exhibitors were Doris Hunter
(Pinecone birds), Michael Rogers (Watercolors), Gail
And Roger Marsengill (Country craft), Linda McKay
(Victorian craft & bears), Cynthia Star Lightfoot
(Granny dolls), Rod Eirwood (Jewelry), Norma Deeks (Cowee Creek Pottery ). The eighth exhibitor no one
and her friends had no experience promoting a craft show, but the first
show was a huge success.
“We stuck a few homemade signs on the road and two ads in
the local paper and the customers just poured in!”
second November, the show moved uptown to the old Callahan
Building on Main Street in Franklin. There were 18 exhibitors. The town
was packed with shoppers coming to the show. The downtown
merchants wanted us to come back but the Callahan building had
just sold and the show would have to find another home. This
show was off to bigger things.
third November, the little show moved into the gym at the Macon County
Community Building. There were 23 exhibitors and everyone had to spread
out to look as if we had a lot of merchandise. We were amazed
at the crowds that came to the shows. Over the years, they never stopped coming!
Year after year people looked forward to shopping for
quality gifts and decorations for their homes.
The fourth November, the other artists decided they did not like giving
up Thanksgiving afternoon to set up a show and the group
Not willing to let her dream die, Doris stepped into the role as promoter. "
the name to the “Hard Candy Christmas" and charged a dollar
for admission". It was a bold move, but I never looked back ".
Many people have asked me about the "Hard Candy Christmas " name.
"It is because of my
mountain heritage" she
says. "I am
the youngest of eight children
of a family that spans five generations. Christmas was
always celebrated in a big way. No matter what the
circumstances ,we always had apples, oranges and
of course, hard candy! Mountain children were given gifts hand
made with love, too".
"I did not know it then, but a mountain tradition was
born that was destined to become the largest Christmas art and
craft show in the western part of the State.
"Hard Candy Christmas" became
a great getaway for houseguests after the Thanksgiving
the next fifteen years the show flourished in the Macon County
Community Building in Franklin. Doris tells what effort went
into making the show special.
"It took a lot of work to give
that old building the Christmas spirit each year. I cut long carpet rolls in
half , painted them white and rolled them with red ribbon to carry
out the candy theme. I brought in fresh greens and a
crock pot with spices so the building would smell good. In spite
of my best efforts, it was not where I wanted my show to be
The rooms were all separated and I wanted my
exhibitors to be in one room with good lighting and surround
music." Little did she know that her hard work would pay off
big time, a little later down the road.
While the 'Hard Candy Christmas is the oldest show, Doris
had plans of another event to serve the many summer customers
who missed the November show. The "Christmas in
July ' was born in the summer of 1989 also in the the Macon County
Community Building. borrowed the World's Largest Quilt from Maco Crafts (a local craft co-op
where she was a member ) to hang on the long wall for
interest. The quilt special to Doris as she
has a square in the big quilt. " My square's
was called "Aunt Lizer's
Star". It had 14 corners and took me two weeks to sew. My hat
is off to the quilters
The "Christmas in July" continued many years thereafter as visitors bought early Christmas
gifts at the show and the reputation for being a quality show
The July show, also, had many growing pains
during the years in Macon County.
Several times if was held
outside and encountered the common summertime thunderstorm
complete with wind rain and hail. When it moved inside , the
gymnasium had no air conditioning and was a "sweat box". " I was two
sizes smaller after that show "Doris smiles" .The name was changed to
the "Summertime" show after moving to Cullowhee.
15 years in Macon County , my dream of a big room with all my
exhibitors in it was about to come true !
In 2005,with support from the Jackson County
Chamber , the door opened for me to bring
both shows to the upscale Listen B. Ramsey Center on the campus
of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee N.C. The
arena area has 18,000 square feet of wide aisles, easy access and
ample parking. The surround lighting and music make it easy for artists
and shoppers alike to enjoy the show.
It is air conditioned in the summer and heated in the fall. It is uptown accommodations in a
small town charm. More than all that, there was
room to grow the show." The build sets up pipe and drapes for us
and each artist has a name board. It is 'first class' all
the way. Many artists will come to Cullowhee who would never
come to Franklin!
"The Mountain Artisans Arts & Crafts Shows is the crown of my
life's work. I am very proud of each exhibitor in the show. Some
of the most talented artists in the Western North Carolina
area exhibit with me. Lots of them, I met at shows where I
was exhibiting. Others, have been found by
visiting shows throughout the region. I am always looking for unique artisans.
Many customers return to each show and say it is the best
quality artisans show they have ever seen .
back today, I see if I had not pressed on through the hard times in
Macon County, I would not be in Cullowhee today. I had to be
faithful no matter what, in order to win the blessing I am enjoying
I was always destined to end up in the Ramsey Center when I was
struggling with the trials back in Macon County. What a great reward!