NATCHITOCHES, Louisiana – The 40th annual Melrose Plantation Arts and Crafts Festival will be celebrated on Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4, according to Harry Thompson of Natchitoches, chairman for the event. The festival is sponsored by the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN), and attracts more than 2,000 visitors during the two-day event.
The festival will feature more than 100 artists and vendors from several states. Among the items available to visitors are original art works, stained glass, gourmet pickles and jellies, hand-made jewelry, clothing, photographs, plants, toys, woodworking products, pottery and other arts and crafts. Melrose Plantation, located on Highway 119 in southern Natchitoches Parish, is a National Historic Landmark featuring eight historic structures. Tours of two of the buildings, the “Big House” and the African House, will be available.
The Melrose Plantation served as a retreat for many artists during the early 20th century, a period often referred to as the “Southern Renaissance.” Many renowned writers and artists visited and lived at the plantation during those years, including William Faulkner, Rachel Field, Ada Jack Carver, Roark Bradford, and Albert Kinsey.
Lyle Saxon wrote his best-known novel, “Children of Strangers,” while living at Melrose. His story was based on the culture of Melrose and the Cane River area. Francois Mignon lived at Melrose for 32 years and wrote his “Plantation Memo” and several thousands of pages of journal entries during that time.
Probably the best known resident of Melrose was Clementine Hunter, who came to the plantation as a field hand and taught herself how to paint using paints and brushes discarded by an artist at Melrose. Hunter’s paintings have gained national and international notoriety, and some of her works hang in the Louvre in Paris. She is one of the most recognized primitive artists in Louisiana history, and her home is among the historic structures at Melrose.
The Melrose Arts and crafts Festival will open at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 3, and at 10:00 on Sunday, May 4. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6-12. Self-guided tours of the grounds and viewing of all the historic buildings are free. Additional information about Melrose Plantation and the annual Arts and Crafts Festival may be found at www.melroseplantation.org.