Southern showcase Stone Mountain's art, craft fest delights again

STONE MOUNTAIN - The famous Yellow Daisy Festival in Stone Mountain is proof that standing motionless in a traffic jam of baby strollers isn't all that bad.

Where else, after all, can one inhale the aroma of fresh Maple Syrup Cream from Vermont while browsing for custom shower curtains and Frank Sinatra caricatures.? Nowhere. That's where. Or at least nowhere that does it quite like Yellow Daisy does it.

Named after the Confederate yellow daisies adorning the park's gigantic rock formation, the Yellow Daisy Festival was recently voted the best arts-and-crafts show in the nation by Sunshine Artist Magazine, a top authority in the field. The festival has nabbed the honor five years in a row.

"This reminds you of home - it has that kind of old-fashioned work and all these people," said Maxine Holland, of Conyers. "We love the atmosphere."

The festival's popularity is tangible, if not a little stressful.

Morning patrons were greeted Saturday by an Interstate 85-esque traffic jam at the park's gates. Elsewhere, the labyrinthian trails nicknamed Elm Avenue, Camelia Trail and Blueberry Lane, to name a few, were packed shoulder-to-shoulder with bargain hunters of all ages, squirming under acres of shaded, winding paths.

Now in its 39th year, the festival that began in a single pavilion - and was later moved to horse stables - now draws vendors from across the United States.

Thus, a vendor spot at the Yellow Daisy is coveted. An outside jury chose about 500 crafters from a pool of thousands trying to get in. About 200,000 shoppers are expected to cruise the festival over four days - a veritable Woodstock for arts-and-crafts aficionados.

"I've heard about it over the years," said Nancy Shaffer, owner of Kan Do Crafts in Connellsville, Pa. "I like it."

Christine Parker, spokeswoman for the park, said the festival has traditionally attracted 85 percent women. To broaden its appeal, features like a Children's Corner and the Men's Den - Stone Mountain's version of Hooters, replete with couches, beer, football on television and lottery ticket stands - have been implemented.

"We've found (the festival) is multi-generational," said Parker. "It's becoming stronger every year."

Marsha Durham, of Dacula would agree. She's attend all but five or six Yellow Daisy festivals in its nearly four-decade run, and now she's letting her grandson, Aubrey Bone, 9, in on the fun.

"I remember when it all was just in a little green area," Durham said. "It's just something different to do.

"And a great place to spend too much money."

SideBar: If you go

' What: Yellow Daisy Festival

' When: Today 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

' Where: In the Special Events Meadow at Stone Mountain Park, located off exit 8 on U.S. Highway 78 in Stone Mountain.

' Cost: Admission to the festival is free. Stone Mountain Park charges $8 per vehicle for a one-day parking pass or $35 for an annual parking pass.

' Info: Call 770-498-5690 or visit www.stonemountainpark.com.