The Story of the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association

By Boyd Holtan

Part Four:  Hosting the 1982 ABANA Conference

In 1979, shortly after the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association was organized, our president, Pete Minier was elected to the Board of Directors of the national blacksmith group, Artists Blacksmith Association of North America (ABANA). ABANA had previously held a very successful conference at Carbondale, Illinois and was seeking a location for the next meeting. Pete volunteered the ABA and the Cedar Lakes Conference Center near Ripley, WV as the site. The offer was accepted for May 19-23, 1982. Emmert Studebaker came from Tipp City, Ohio and met with some of the ABA members and helped to plan the conference. That was the beginning of a project that involved many ABA members in activities and hard work but produced a successful national conference for blacksmiths.

Steve Rosenburg of Stamford, Conn., was appointed Conference Chairman with Pete Minier as Conference Coordinator. The following served as the Conference Committee and chairs of various committees: Bill Fiorini of LaCrescent, MN, Demonstration Coordinator; Boyd Holtan, Treasurer and Registrar; Bob Selvaggio, Printing; Jay Hurley and Jim Wallace, Industry Liaisons; Randy McDaniels, Promotion; Paul B. Lacy III, Tooling Foreman; Terry Pennington, Cedar Lakes Liaison; Skip Roberts, Exhibition Director; and George Nichols, Entertainment. Glenn Horr, Ed Small, and Frank Bordo as well as many other ABA members assisted with the work of the conference.

A very attractive conference logo was developed consisting of a blacksmith with a derby hat at the anvil forging a branch of roses. This logo was used on the conference stationery, the program, and other conference publications.

1982 abana conference artworkDemonstration Chairman Fiorini arranged for outstanding sessions. There were four international demonstrators: Alfred Habermann of Czechoslovakia; Manfred Bredohl of the Federal Republic of Germany; Stuart Hill of England; and Aachim Kuhn of the German Democratic Republic. Other demonstrators (from the USA) were Joe Volz, Jud Nelson, Peter Ross and Dick Sargent.

The first group activity was the preparation and mailing of the registration materials. A small group of ABA members met at Pete Minier's Morgantown apartment and stuffed envelopes. These were mailed to all of the possible conference participants.

The conference contracted to use the entire Cedar Lakes Conference Center for the meeting, which included administering the room fees and arranging for the demonstration areas. There were more than 600 participants at the conference, some from as far away as Australia and Alaska. Since the Conference Center had about 400 room accommodations, a camping area was designated behind the swimming pool area. There were no garbage or refuse facilities for camping, so everyone paid the same fees and ate in the dining hall. The camping area was used for sleeping, but not for cooking food. We ran a bit short on the first night as the dining hallís head cook quit and hadn't ordered groceries! The assistant camp director took over as head cook, went for the groceries, and fed us well for the rest of the time!

Terry Pennington was kept busy running a shuttle service, transporting participants back and forth from the Charleston Airport to Cedar Lakes. The Conference Center was closed to visitors. The conference participants were free to roam between demonstration areas without monitoring.

An interesting confrontation occurred when a newspaper account of the conference brought out some local people and they wanted to observe blacksmith demonstrations. Since space was limited, they were turned away unless they registered for the conference!

Demonstration areas were set up around the Conference Area. Jay Hurley hauled a 50-pound power hammer from Shepherdstown and set it up in a picnic shelter in the area across the road from the Registration Office. Picnic tables were stacked on top of one another to form bleachers for the observers.

A large concrete base was constructed for the shop and Centaur Forge installed a demonstration air hammer on it. This served as one of the demonstration areas to show the work of an air power hammer. Slides of work were also shown in the Craft House. A forging station with two forges was set up in a little picnic shelter in the open area by the shop. Joe Volz and Jud Nelson used it.

On the last night of the conference, the blacksmiths relaxed with a party in the Assembly Building. A live band and a few kegs of beer loosened up the festivities.

The hard work of staging the conference was recognized, as the conference was used as a yardstick to measure the succeeding ABANA Conferences that have met every two years since. Each seems to be better than the last one!

One disadvantage of the conference was that the ABA members worked so hard that they had a bit of a "burn out." and the organization was at a low ebb following the conference. But the ABA revived itself in 1983.