Home Craft Days 10-19-19 - Kipp Brixey

In this file photo, Bristol potter Kipp Brixey demonstrated the finer art of throwing a bowl at last year’s Home Craft Days at Mountain Empire Community College. This year’s event will be held virtually.

BIG STONE GAP — Mountain Empire Community College’s Home Craft Days has been a staple of fall events in Southwest Virginia for almost five decades, but organizers of the weekend event say that the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing them to take a virtual approach to what would have been its 49th anniversary.

Mike Gilley, MECC’s director of library services, archives and cultural heritage programs, said on Monday that a virtual Home Craft Days program will be shown on social media and the college’s website and public channel 60 on Comcast this fall.

Gilley said the program — now in development — will combine recorded music, storytelling and dance sessions from performers originally slated for October along with interviews and demonstrations with craftspersons and artisans who put the crafts in Home Crafts Days.

“Many festivals and events have canceled in the region, and we put this off as long as we could,” Gilley said. “We have thousands of people come each year to Home Crafts Days and we don’t have gates, so people park along the highway and walk onto campus or take shuttle buses. We couldn’t see any way we could enforce social distancing or wearing masks, and we were concerned about public safety.”

Gilley said the decision to go virtual, however, coincided with plans for a retrospective book for the event’s 50th anniversary in 2021. That meant research though the college’s archives of recordings from 48 years of Home Craft Days could be used as part of this year’s virtual presentation.

“We also want to do a listing of every craft vendor who registered for this year with their contact information,” Gilley said. “By featuring these people on our program along with what they do and their business contacts, people who normally do their Christmas shopping at Home Craft Days can continue to support them. We’re concerned about the impact the pandemic has had on their livelihood, and we hope we can continue to support them.

“It will still be a celebration of our region’s music, dancing, storytelling and crafts,” Gilley said. “We hope to be celebrating that in person on our 50th anniversary next year.”