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A master of detail at the Fair

Certified Fair Junkie

Sun Advocate associate editor
Certified Fair Junkie

The thing about fairs is that there's a story behind everything. Somebody made or grew everything on display. Somebody practiced long and hard to perform whatever is being performed. A fair showcases human achievement, months or years of work condensed into a few days in a small, walkable place.

Take the work of Clifford Arno of Price, for example. He's a woodworker for whom detail makes a difference. When he saws and turns and sands something like the model steam locomotive on display this year, he makes sure the bell on top will swing. The coal car behind is loaded with real coal.

"And look at this," he says, lifting a little wooden tractor he made to scale from the real thing. He pushes down on the seat and shows that it moves on springs like a real one. Model moving parts on the back where implements are attached actually move.

Arno has brought other hand-made items to the fair again this year. He estimates that over the years he has displayed about 100 of the models he has made. When asked about what kinds of tools he uses to achieve the minute detail, he replies, "Everything. It takes lots of tools but it takes even more patience. People ask me how much I'd sell something for, and I figure if I sold something for $300, that would be a dollar an hour. Who works for a dollar an hour?"

He has time to pay attention to detail and spend hours in his shop now. He retired after 22 years at Plateau Mine, and and decided to keep his hands busy doing what he always wanted to do.

Arno does not have much patience, though, with models that don't show attention to detail. "You can go to San Francisco and see people paying $40 or $50 for a cable car," he explains. "There's no detail. These things look like cable cars but that's all. Maybe they cost three cents to make."

Arno's work, along with other home arts exhibits, flowers and garden produce will be on display today through Saturday.

The full schedule of events is on page B8 of today's newspaper.

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