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Cove Lake State Park hosts knap-in and primitive skills festival

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By Dwane Wilder

CARYVILLE—Craftsmen from all over the South and Midwest displayed their wares and talents last weekend during the 4th annual Cove Lake State Park Knap-In and Primitive Skills Festival.

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The family-friendly event, which had been held the past two decades in a county on the Cumberland Plateau, featured the construction of Native American-type weaponry and accoutrements.

“There are a lot of unique things that go on here…a lot of primitive skills,” said Oak Ridge resident Joe Darnell, who organized the festival. “We just wanted it to continue to go on and found a new home for it.”

A mix of residents and out-of-towners visited the Cove Lake campground on Saturday morning to see craftsmen make arrowheads and spear points using the ancient technique called flint knapping.

Harold Elam and David Kuhn greeted curiosity seekers and potential customers while chipping away at chunks of flint they brought with them from Ohio.

Elam, who has been flint knapping more than 20 years, said it usually takes him half an hour to make a large arrowhead.

“The more experienced you are, the quicker it goes. You want to take your time and not break it,” said Elam.

“It’s kind of a time-consuming hobby. There is no mass production here.”

Both Elam and Kuhn spent many years collecting Native American artifacts before ever attempting to make them.

“It used to be that you could find things in plowed fields, but farmers don’t plow as much anymore,” said Kuhn.

Arrowheads weren’t the only items on display at the festival.

Carson Manuel found a moose antler to hang on the wall of his home at Fort Chiswell, Va. 

Keith Clark drove all the way up from Wilkes County, Ga., for the festival. His trade items included many raccoon and coyote pelts.

“Some years we’ll have 20 or 25 vendors. We get to know each other, and it’s just like a big family,” said Darnell.