Alabama Rural Heritage Center opening April 11

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 4, 2005

After three years of building and planning the Rural Heritage Center in Thomaston will be open for business in its newly renovated building at 133 6th Avenue on Monday April 11.

The 6,000 square foot facility will feature a new art gallery, gift shop, commercial kitchen, outdoor stage, vegetable cleaning room, meeting rooms, and office space.

The project utilized funding from HUD and design/build from Auburn’s University Rural Studio.

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Architecture students from throughout the United States have worked on this project, which is expected to foster economic development by providing jobs in the Mama News Commercial Kitchen and also in the garden and vegetable cleaning room.

More additions to the studio are expected. Gayle Etheridge, who helps run the center said future plans include a seasonal restaurant featuring home grown vegetables.

“The restaurant, when we get it up and running, will feature homemade Alabama vegetables,” Etheridge said. “It will probably be a three day a week or three night a week deal. We aren’t sure yet.”

Ethel Gunter, who helps with the center, said it is a special place because it is full of arts and crafts from resident Alabamaians.

“We have work from people all over Alabama,” Gunter said. “We have everything from Kudzu jelly to books and birdhouses.”

The crafts are available for purchase, however Etheridge said they do not pressure people to buy things.

Monday’s grand opening will kick off a week of special events. Tuesday, April 12, 1 p.m. Betty Kennedy, who owns the Gaines Ridge Dinner Club in Camden, will teach a class on a 100 year old technique known as Locker Hooked Rugs and also on Frayed-Edge Quilting. The class is free, however seating will be limited.

There is a small charge for the starter kit, which will be used in the class.

Each participant is asked to bring a pair of small sharp scissors.

Class time is approximately 2.5 hours.

Wednesday April 13 at 2 p.m. Annie Crenshaw, independent scholar and member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation speakers bureau, presents “Mama’s in the Kitchen:

Historical Southern Traditions in Food.”

This gives participants a chance to explore the origins of why Southerners eat what they do in this entertaining look at food history and culture.

From her unique perspective of having raised hogs and chickens, grown heirloom fruits and vegetables, preserved produce, cooked on a wood stove, and absorbed several hundred years of family history (and a little book learning), Crenshaw discusses how the Southern environment, culture, and people have combined to create our wonderful food traditions. Crenshaw’s recipe/genealogy book is also available in the Heritage Gift Shop.

There is no charge for this event.

To make reservations for classes or obtain more information please call 334-627-3388. The studio encourages everyone to stop by for a tour during their opening week. Business hours are 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday.

Etheridge said one of the main goals for the new center is to attract people from all over.

“This is not just for people in Thomaston,” Etheridge said. “We want everyone to come out and enjoy this. There is something for everyone.”