Crafter’s skill wows visitors to mill festival


By Carol McIntire



It didn’t seem to matter what the age was of the people gathered around a wooden shed with the word “Blacksmith” painted on a board across the front at the Algonquin Mill Fall Festival Friday, all were in awe of what Brad Weber could accomplish with steel, fire and a hammer.

Weber, a blacksmith from Bowerston, used heat from a fire built in his stove sitting in the corner of the shed to soften metal and then used a hammer to shape it into objects that were then slowly cooled.

Blacksmith Brad Weber demonstrates how to make fire using a spark, dried cotton, wood chips and a paper towel to visitors at the Algonquin Mill Fall Festival. (FPS/Carol McIntire)
Blacksmith Brad Weber demonstrates how to make fire using a spark, dried cotton, wood chips and a paper towel to visitors at the Algonquin Mill Fall Festival. (FPS/Carol McIntire)

Eyes opened wide in amazement and youngsters whispered “wow” as he used metal to create sparks on a piece of dried cotton he then placed in a paper towel with wood chips. As he blew softly into the towel (which he held cupped in his hands), smoke began to rise from the towel and flames appeared.

A group of school children watching the demonstration turned to each other, one of them asking, “How did he do that?” An adult standing nearby admitted to watching for nearly a half hour. “I was fascinated,” the man said.

Weber describes himself as a “back to nature kind of guy,” who built his own cabin in the Tappan Lake Region.

“I’ve been doing this for about 25 years,” he said. “It isn’t something I was around as a kid, it’s something I picked up as an adult.”

Weber was one of several who shared their skill with visitors at the 46th annual festival, held Friday, Saturday and Sunday of last week on the grounds of the Algonquin Mill Farm in Petersburg.

Across the grounds a group of people from Salem shared the art of pressing sorghum, boiling it down and turning it into sorghum syrup.

Gerald Joy and his Belgian draft horse, Lily, wore a patch in the grass as they walked in a circle around an old fashioned pressing machine owned by the Carroll County Historical Society. Robert Roessler fed the sorghum piece by piece into the machine as it was pressed. Robert Rae manned the kettle where the sorghum boiled over an open fire. He said they typically boil the sorghum about four hours to make five gallons.

Another group of volunteers operated steam engines on the side of the hill at the festival grounds while others baked bread in an outdoor oven. Volunteers made sauerkraut and baked cookies prior to the event, all of which sold out before the festival closed Sunday evening.

Historical Society President Dave McMahon said the festival is all about volunteers.

“I marvel at how many volunteers it actually takes to put on the festival,” he said. Organizations are the heart of our festival. They turn out year after year. We couldn’t put on the festival without them.”

The cookie house sold out of 1,135 dozen cookies by mid morning Sunday, the sauerkraut, which was sold out Saturday afternoon, totaled eight ton this year and the Carrollton FFA Chapter sold out of 418 gallons and 312 sport bottles of cider early Sunday afternoon. The apple dumpling stand sold 3,312 apple dumplings, leaving less than 100 in the supply building.

McMahon estimated the attendance between 16,000 and 20,000 people.

“We were fortunate Hurricane Matthew didn’t visit Ohio,” he said. “We had great attendance and beautiful weather all three days.”

Proceeds from the festival are put back into the grounds, historic exhibits and operation of the festival. This year, McMahon said a sizeable investment was made to purchase a large energy efficient freezer. The purchase allowed for the old freezer to be moved to behind the apple dumpling stand so volunteers did not have to make repeated trips to the supply station to pick up the dumplings.

“We need to do these things to make the festival run more efficiently and for the benefit of our volunteers,” he said.

McMahon said he received several positive comments on the renovations to the farmhouse, that included refurbishing the doors and installing turn-of-the century windows.

“We can’t thank our volunteers enough,” he said. “They are the ones who make the mill festival a success year after year.”