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TroyFest to feature painted roof slates

With April now upon us, many crafters are already preparing for TroyFest, a fine art and craft festival held during the last weekend in April. This year, TroyFest is April 24 and 25.

John and Annette White are crafters from Butler, Alabama, a town west of Montgomery near the Mississippi boarder.

The Whites have only participated in TroyFest once before, but they are eager to return.

“The [volunteers] were just so nice and attentive,” Mrs. White said. “We sold a lot and had good customers. You always want to come back to a place where you sell a lot.”

The Whites’ exhibit will feature hand-painted roofing slates. “The slates [being used now] are from a 125-year-old church,” Mrs. White explained. “I paint them ahead of time with landscapes or flowers, and then at the festival, I personalize them with names or house numbers.”

The roofing slates come from an independent roofer acquainted with the White’s. He saves old roofing slates as he works on various projects. “We pick up the slates, my husband cuts them, and I paint them,” she said.

Most slates are 9 x 12 inches, but some can be as tall as two feet. The slates come with a pole on which they can be hung for display.

The slates, some of which have designs associated with holidays or seasonal events, can be displayed in or outside.

“We sold a bunch with ‘Who Dat?’ on them during the Super Bowl,” Mrs. White said. “There is really no limit to what can be painted on the slates.

The Whites have been crafting for the past ten years, ever since their retirement from teaching. They have traveled to craft shows throughout the US, including stops in Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, and of course Alabama.

“I actually started painting when my son died in a car accident,” Mrs. White explained. “I had a niece that painted roofing slates and traveled to crafting fairs. She got me into painting to help me cope with the grief.”

Though one tragedy started the White’s crafting business, another recently threatened to end it.

Both John and Annette battled cancer last year. Mr. White had prostate and bladder cancer, and Mrs. White had breast cancer.

The Whites usually take January and February off from crafting, so they were able to get most of their treatments at that time.

“When we had to travel to shows, one of our sons drove us around until we felt better,” Mrs. White said.

“We didn’t let it slow us down too much, and we are ready to get back to our crafting trips,” she added.

Every year, around 150 artists participate in TroyFest on the downtown square.

Despite the hardships faced this past year, both John and Annette hope to be among them.

Jenniffer Barner, president of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce and 2010 TroyFest Chair, acknowledged that most of the artists have a unique story.

“I feel this lends to their creativity and their ability to engage people with their art,” she said.

Though most artists participating in TroyFest are from various cities throughout Alabama, Ms. Barner mentioned many are from Pike County itself.

“Pike County is blessed with many talented people and a lot of them bring their talent to TroyFest,” she said.

The deadline to apply for an exhibition space at TroyFest is March 1.

Downloadable applications for food, vendors, volunteers and children’s areas are available at www.troyfest.com, or those interested may call Ms. Barner at 566-2294.