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TAMARACK - March 16, 2006

When Pat Fetty told me his works would be featured at Tamarack during February, I knew I would not be content with just writing from pictures. It was important to be able to see the actual grain of the wood, the curve of the metal, the flawless finish and magnificent size of each sculpture. It gave me a feeling of pride in one of my “Calhoun boys” that the post card could not convey.

Tamarack is my favorite stopping place on the way to visit my daughter, Sarah, and her family in Hickory, N.C. I could feel the anticipation while traveling down I -77 from Charleston. First, there was a sign almost every five miles proclaiming, “Tamarack, the Best of West Virginia,” and the number of miles remaining. As I turned off at the exit, I could see a spectacular structure, points reaching toward the blue sky and a roof of bright red. Even though I am a frequent visitor, something new is revealed at each visit. This day it was the reflection of the sky in the points.

The name was chosen because of the Tamarack tree, which is known for its strength, versatility and beauty. The design of the building resembles a starburst quilt pattern, appropriate in a state knows for the time honored tradition of quilting. As you approach it from the parking lot, the multiple peaks echo our West Virginia mountains.

My first stop is always the food court, which is managed by the Greenbrier Resort. The menu has some of our state favorites: fried green tomatoes, pan fried trout, barbecues, country ham, Appalachian omelets and luscious desserts. My first choice is always an unusual soup, followed by a fresh green salad, but some-times I give in to the fresh green beans and little red potatoes. There are always hot dogs and pizza for the grandchildren. The cost of each food item is very reasonable. My husband, Carl, would end his meal with an ice cream concoction, and then relax in one of the Attaway rockers, lined up by the food court. Our long time friend, Richard McMillan, former VoAg teacher, is associated with the company. I visit the art displays and then enjoy the aromatic coffee and a cookie from the Greenbrier Coffee Shop.

Tamarack benefits every county in the state. A total of $50,900,000 in goods and services were purchased by Tamarack from May 13, 1996, to June 30, 2005. Calhoun County received $282,000 of this amount. Tamarack creates economic development opportunities for cottage industries in West Virginia. Calhoun County has nine active artisans from the overall state total of 2,500 juried craftspeople. Tamarack retains, expands and creates jobs for West Virginians and enhances West Virginia’s overall image and tourism. The nucleus of this attraction is a 60,000 square foot retail store of state crafts. It is not smaller shops, but one huge continuous shop. Hand carved furniture to glass, pottery to Appalachian quilts, food and music are all under one roof.

Tamarack has something for everyone’s taste and budget. Souvenirs and gifts range in price from marbles for five cents each to a bronze/glass coffee table for $16,000. Some have said that this table would never sell . . . six have sold to those who realize the time and energy spent in this creation make it a spectacular show piece for a special place.

Eighty-five percent of customers come from out-of-state due to the proximity to I77/64 and US 19. West Virginians rank in the top five percent for customer sales. Tamarack, as an economic development project for the West Virginia Parkways Authority, is required to be self sufficient.

The jurying process for artisans was very appealing to me. It is very involved, with educational opportunities provided from start to finish. Each item is scored on a point system. A workshop is provided to help artisans revise their work to meet the standards of acceptance for the next session. Professional marketing consultants are also available.

A few of the active artisans from Calhoun County are Phil and Joyce Payne, wood; Jude Binder, fine art; Thom Kellam, fine art; and Jake and Dara Krack, music and video.

Former Calhoun people on the list are Richard McMillan, Attaway rockers, and Patrick Fetty, nature sculptures.

Tamarack is the nation’s first and only statewide collection of the crafts of our people.

It is a tourist center, with the usual brochures, information desk, and souvenirs, but there the resemblance ends. It is a one stop-shop for West Virginia culture, heritage, handcrafts, fine art, food and music. All of it is really the best of West Virginia.

Most important, “Remember, everything is made in West Virginia.”

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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