Local News

Lake Placid Country Fair give attendees a taste of old times

LAKE PLACID - It's the imperfections that make wood beautiful, so Robert Schultz leaves them in.

"This is wormy chestnut," said the craftsman from Sylva, N.C. It isn't purposely distressed like new furniture. Those nail holes claimed their stations in that wood decades ago.

Schultz, a finish carpenter with a 30-year professional background, was one of 200 crafters, artists, local clubs and organizations Saturday at the Lake Placid Country Fair.

The owner of Woodgrain Studios, Schultz makes coffee tables and coat racks and cabinets from reclaimed wood, and then sells at a dozen festivals a year. He came to Highlands County because his mother, Betty, retired here.

Construction work is seasonal, so in the North Carolina winters he and his son liberated 70- to 140-year-old oaks and pines and ash from the floors and walls of homes and barns in Jackson County, in the Smoky Mountains.

"My son and I tore down the buildings piece by piece," he said. "No heavy equipment was used."

With the help of metal detectors, nails and spikes were removed before the boards were sawn to length, then planed straight. Then he sanded by hand and finished each piece with rubbed polyurethane. His furniture is hand-made and his designs are his own, so no two pieces are alike.

The Saturday-only fair was so busy, cars cruised the traffic circle to find a spot. On the west side of DeVane Park, Miles Lambert sold green vegetables. "The Lions Club uses the money to check the eyesight of all the kids in the lower grade schools."

The Lake Placid club combines with other Lions to put on the Immokalee health fair every year, he said.

A few booths south, Lou Quigley from Dade City kept up a patter with browsers: "You know something? It will look just as good as your house."

He and Berni Mastroianni were selling bromeliads arranged inside hollowed gourds. Pots hang upside down or even sideways like long-necked swans.

Back to Schultz, he rescues red and white oak, pine, tulip poplar, hickory, chestnut...

"At the turn of the century," Schultz pointed to a hardwood bench, "all the chestnut was killed by a blight that came down from New York. By the mid-30s, it was all gone. So you can't even go out into the woods and cut this down any more,"