LEFT: Maggie McDonald, 13, with a collection of stuffed frogs she sewed as Christmas presents for her family. Colors and patterns were chosen to match each family member’s personality. The one she gave grandmother Kerry McDonald will be entered in the Burnet County Area Fair on June 9-10. TOP RIGHT: Genevieve McDonald, 9, started her own business, Genevieve’s Woodworking. Her repertoire includes wood-handled pens and seam rippers, honey dippers, bottle stoppers, and finely balanced toy tops. BOTTOM RIGHT: A display of some of the ribbons won for woodworking by the McDonald family at the 2022 Burnet County Area Fair. The fair includes the adjacent counties of Lampasas, Llano, and Travis. Photos courtesy of Christopher McDonald
Three generations of Kerry McDonald’s family spend all year sewing, woodworking, and crafting for the Burnet County Area Fair, which this year is June 9-10 in the Burnet County AgriLife Extension Auditorium, 607 N. Vandeveer St. in Burnet.
Their collection of quilts, button art, stuffed animals, scarves, plants, and finely turned wooden tops, pens, and knives always earn the family, ages 9 to 66, multiple ribbons and plaques, some of which go on a kitchen wall in Kerry and Max McDonald’s northeast Burnet County ranch home. Many of the ribbons earned by younger members of the family are attached to the winning items and given away as gifts.
“Most of what they make ends up as Christmas presents,” said Christopher McDonald of Liberty Hill. He is Kerry’s son and the father of two master crafters: Maggie, 13, and Genevieve, 9. “The ribbons go with the presents. It makes it even more special.”
With 19 divisions from aprons to woodworking, the fair offers almost countless ways to enter and win. The divisions are broken into categories, each one judged according to age group. Arts and Crafts, for example, has 21 categories; clothing 26.
Kerry’s grandkids, which include daughter Korin Carver’s children — Sean, 16, and Megan 13, of Lampasas — are masters at jewelry making and woodworking. Sean, the only boy in the group, aside from his uncle Christopher, is entering a sword with a wood and leather handle this year, among other creations.
“He entered one last year and got comments back from the judges on how to improve,” Korin said. “It’s really great. I think the kids get so much out of it. It’s a great place for them to showcase their creativity.”
Korin enters the results of her green thumb and keen eye for photography. A science teacher, she turns her camera lens on plants, animals, and insects, pictures she also uses in her classroom.
“It’s fascinating to see how close I can get to a bug before it runs away,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Korin claimed she was unable to grow anything. Now, she nurtures award-winning orchids and African violets. Daughter Meghan specializes in bracelets.
Crafting has become more than a pastime to this family, especially 9-year-old Genevieve, who started her own small business, Genevieve’s Woodworking. She sells tops, pens, and seam rippers with turned-wood handles at Poppy Quilt N Sew in Georgetown and pens made of exotic deer horn at Salem’s Jewelry in Burnet. She ran an advertisement in this year’s fair book, a way to give back to the community that supports her art. “Since 2021,” reads the ad.
They all get their expert woodworking training from Christopher, who has a 1,000-square-foot woodworking shop at his home. A computer tech for Oracle, he spends a good deal of his spare time in the shop, often with his daughters, nephews, and nieces, some of whom live in other states but visit at least once a year for “cousin’s camp” at the Burnet County ranch.
Grandma Kerry taught all of the kids to sew, which is 13-year-old Maggie’s specialty. For Christmas 2022, she made everyone in the family individualized stuffed frogs using fabric patterns and colors that matched their personalities. The one for Grandma will be entered in the fair. She is also entering quilts, pillowcases, an infinity scarf, and cowboy boot button art to match the 2023 fair’s theme of “Country Roots and Cowboy Boots.”
“This is so good for the kids,” Kerry said. “They set a goal and have to finish it. All year, we talk about, ‘Are you putting that in the fair?’ or ‘What are you making next?’”
A crafter himself, Christopher found it natural to get his daughters involved.
“It’s a great way to bond,” he said. “It’s fun and we get to hang out.”
Submitting their finished products to be judged at the Burnet County Area Fair is an added learning experience, teaching them community, competition, and good sportsmanship. Kerry especially values the fair for its part in preserving skills that might otherwise be lost.
“A lot of what you see in the fair, people don’t do anymore,” she said. “If we don’t pass these skills down to our kids, we won’t know how to do them anymore — the canning, the sewing, making our own toys.”
IF YOU GO
Opening ceremonies for the Burnet County Area Fair are 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 9. Presentations will be held off and on from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The ice cream crank-off (which the McDonalds are entering for the first time this year) begins at 2 p.m. Also on Friday are cooking demonstrations from 4-5 p.m. and awards presentations and photographs from 5:30-7 p.m.
Saturday hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. with live music from noon to 2:30 p.m.