Chalk up this downtown arts festival as a success
Some arts festivals have specific rules for vendors of what’s allowed and what isn’t, but up-and-coming events such as the Queen of the Prairies Festival of the Arts have looser standards.
That leads to an eclectic mix. At Saturday’s second annual event, visitors could see paintings, ceramics, sidewalk chalk art, commercial crafts, musicians, a blacksmith, actors dressed as historical figures, horses ... and motorcycles.
“I don’t think too many bikers are going to be roaring down the road with a painting strapped to their back, but you never know,” joked ceramic artist Alan Weaver.
It was all about promoting downtown Sedalia, Weaver said.
“You know, we’re trying to get this one going, and it’s cool to see Sedalia looking like this. They’ve done all this work downtown on the streets, and that’s the reason to have a historic district — to promote stuff like this.”
A veteran “clay bender,” this marks Weaver’s first year as a “road warrior” — an artist who peddles his wares at festivals — and he said there’s almost as much to learn about hawking one’s goods as there is about creating them.
“This is the sixth one I’ve been to,” he said. “I’ve been as far as Des Moines (Iowa) and Springfield. Missouri is a good locale for being able to hit a lot of states. At every show, I’ve learned a little bit. Actually, I’m doing as good here as I did in Des Moines. There were about 250 artists there; any more than about 200 and that becomes almost too many artists.”
Queen of the Prairies drew 40 artists — mostly from Sedalia, but one from as far away as Chicago. That’s nearly double last year’s total. There was also a decent crowd on hand, which made picking the nine strolling docents out of the throng a challenge along the lines of “Where’s Waldo?”
Paul Beard, a Sedalia judge, portrayed John Homer Bothwell as part of the “Historic Celebrity Bingo” game. Being youthful-looking, he sported a fake mustache to look more like an elderly Bothwell.
“I found an individual who’s an expert on Bothwell; he emailed me and I wrote up a little skit to share with the public when they ask me who I am,” Beard said. “They would spot me and start walking toward me and I would start my spiel. I wanted to give them the history of John Homer, since he has a lot to do with the history of Sedalia. I got to tell them about the state fair, the hotel, the lodge, the hospital.
“It’s a nice way to commemorate the history of our neat little town.”
Don Nichols brought history to life at his blacksmith booth. The Sedalia-based owner of Rusty Hammer Forge, Nichols gave demonstrations that drew children to his tent like moths to a flame. Working with hot iron at a temperature of more than 2,000 degrees, he made sure to outline the three rules of blacksmithing, all of which are: “Don’t touch anything behind the table; it might be hot.”
Blacksmithing — a trade, an art and a craft — fits in at several types of fairs.
“This is the first year we’ve been here and it’s really been nice,” said Joyce Nichols, Don’s wife. “We do (the Heritage Craft Festival in) Arrow Rock next month, and we were at Lexington last weekend at a rendezvous for three days, and next week he’ll be down at Cole Camp — there’s an antique steam engine show.”
Although Don — a member of BAM, the Blacksmiths Association of Missouri — made artistic items and small tools at his booth, Joyce noted that this is not merely a trade of the past; full-time blacksmiths still find their share of work.
“If you live around the big cities, a lot of those blacksmiths, that’s their job and they make the fancy railings for the big houses,” she said. “So a lot of men get into it full-time. They make chandeliers, hinges for doors, all kinds of things.”
The festival didn’t only include veteran artists; it also featured amateurs, particularly at the “Chalk It Up!” contest. Sahori Ramirez and Blank Briones, both 2012 Smith-Cotton High School graduates, took second place. It was Ramirez’s first year competing; Briones also took second place for her “Roger Rabbit” drawing with another partner last year.
Getting into the Halloween spirit — appropriate, since Saturday was the first day of fall, with a briskness in the air — the friends drew a ghost and a pumpkin over four squares of the sidewalk.
“She specialized on the (ghost) head and I specialized on the pumpkin,” Briones said. “I called her up and we came up with a quick sketch. We’re gonna go again next year and try to get first place.”
As she packed up her chalk for the day, Briones made sure to snap a picture of the art. She was told that it would be intentionally washed away in three weeks, even if the weather didn’t get to it first. But she wasn’t too offended by that, as she gestured toward professional artist Craig Thomas, who was putting the finishing touches on his motorcycle drawing in front of the Pettis County Courthouse.
“They’re going to wash his away, too,” she said.
Although the arts vendors closed shop in the early evening, the festival will continue into Saturday night: Nashville, Tenn., country musician Tyler Farr will take the stage at about 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Fifth Street and Ohio Avenue. Admission is free.
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