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For Fiesta, fans learned company future is as bright as the color of its plates

A WINNER — Cindy Kiely of Covington, Ky., carries away her haul after playing a coin toss game Friday morning during the Fiesta Tableware Co.’s anniversary celebration. For only a quarter an attempt, she was able to keep the piece that her coin landed in. She was particularly excited about the small white mugs. The event began Thursday and concluded Sunday at its Newell location. -- Stephanie Ujhelyi

NEWELL — Bright colors and Art Deco style is what made Fiestaware a highly sought-after brand, and that was on display front and center when the company hosted customers this weekend.

People have become accustomed to biannual pilgrimages to the Fiesta Tableware Co.’s factory location for its tent sales, but last weekend was a little more special.

Not only was Fiesta Tableware celebrating the 85th anniversary of its brand, the Wells family was commemorating its commitment to American craftsmanship for 150 years under the Homer Laughlin China Co. name.

Obviously, face masks were plenty in midst of a pandemic, and the celebration was 17 months after the family had sold HLC and emerged with a new name and new focus. However, it appeared that clients and employees were still in the celebratory spirit.

In addition to catching glimpses of re-enactors portraying Homer Laughlin and the Dancing Lady, who posed with fans for photo ops, popular draws for visitors included a quarter toss game, where the piece of Fiesta was earned if the coin landed there; a chance drawing; and the Fiesta roadshow in the main tent.

Not only could one get Fiesta and HLC pieces appraised by collector Mark Gonzales, but they could view samples of more of the interesting items, ranging from custom made vases to mid-century printing press plates used for advertising their wares in print publications.

Susan Weaver from East Liverpool’s Museum of Ceramics was on hand to share some history behind some of the most intriguing pieces. A quick glance even found Weaver and Homer Laughlin’s re-enactor himself chatting it up near photos of Laughlin, the company’s founder, and Elizabeth (Wells) McIlvain, president of Fiesta Tableware.

William Edwin Wells, her grandfather, and his business partner had bought HLC from Laughlin and his brother Shakespeare in 1897, and she took the reins in 2013.

She could be seen mingling in the anniversary tent, where she greeted some familiar faces that showed up for the festivities.

While the company’s tent sales usually draw customers from far (Texas) and wide (Washington state), McIlvain spoke about that tough decision to sell off HLC last spring and concentrate on its very successful Fiesta brand.

In the height of the pandemic, the company was focused on maintaining American craftsmanship as well as keeping their loyal and highly appreciated employees on the job.

“We all are so grateful to be here right now especially after struggling through the pandemic and the (HLC) sale,” McIlvain said. “It still is very emotional for me. It was like losing part of our family, but we are going looking forward and are excited about Fiesta Tableware Co.’s future.”

Two of the newest pieces appear to be well received. The anniversary vase and cake stand in the 2021 Twilight color were flying off the shelves.

In fact, as McIlvain was interviewed Friday morning, one could see bags with boxed cake stands accompanying new owners as they browsed through the tent, hoping to win everything from T-shirts, free pieces or even factory tours. In fact, she said the cake stands even have been hot sellers online.

“We are making them here as we speak,” she said.

The tent sale wrapped up Sunday afternoon.

Also, as part of Fiesta Tableware’s October celebration, an online auction to benefit the East Liverpool and Oak Glen high school alumni associations concluded Friday, raising $10,000 for each group.

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