She Moved Through the Fairs

11 Oct

StJimages (3)Ever since I returned to Kentucky this past summer, I have had the delightful privilege of attending a craft fair or a class reunion of some kind or both nearly every weekend!  ‘Tis the season, I know, but this is such a plethora of wealth, I feel like a junkie stumbling upon someone’s secret stash!

When it comes to craft fairs and art festivals, I must confess I am a junkie.  It’s one of the few things for which I’ll get up early and drive really far—and that’s what I’ve been doing just about every Saturday for the past 2 months.  But I haven’t even had to go that far out of my way—most of the fairs have been practically in my back yard:  from Lexington to Louisville, Berea to Bardstown, I am truly living in the land of plenty.  And even if I didn’t, I would find a way to get to at least one of the fairs, no matter where I am living.

Bereaimages (3)

The St. James Art Festival is one of two of the largest air fairs in the nation, if not the largest.  It has expanded over the years from St. James and Belgravia Courts to include 3rd and 4th streets, as well, though the plum spots are still in the area around the picturesque fountain that lends its image to the festival’s logos.  My late husband introduced me to this jewel in his hometown’s crown when we were first dating; little did he know what a monster he was creating!  That first visit opened such a longing to live in Old Louisville that I eventually bought a house on Belgravia, primarily to be “at home” during the first weekend of October when the fair is always held.  It was fun having the artists literally on my doorstep and to provide an open house to friends who wanted to stop by for a visit when they were tired of shopping.  It was also great not to have to worry about parking and to get to come and go with my purchases over the three-day event.

Even when I moved to Europe, I found excuses for flying back to Louisville that first weekend of October (just like some plan their visits around the first weekend of May); luckily, my mom’s birthday is the same weekend, so I could usually convince bosses I had to be there for that auspicious occasion!  Much of the art in my house and office is evidence to the treasures one can acquire at this prestigious and sought-after event, and there are as many stories to go with the artifacts as there are object d’arts!  Suffice it to say, no matter how large the crowds, how foul the weather, how outrageous the prices, the St. James Art Fair will remain the top of my priority list as long as I can walk; even being confined to a wheelchair won’t stop me, either—already been there, done that!

But St. James wasn’t the first art festival I fell in love with; that would be the Berea Craft Fair, sponsored by the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, for whom I worked as a secretary during my short sojourn as a student at Berea College.  I’ll never forget former Executive Director Garry Barker or his predecessor Maggie Rafai and how they let me work at the fair years after I had left the college, just because I enjoyed it so much.  Set in the woods leading up to the Indian Fort Theatre, the KGAC’s standard is as high as that set by the juried St. James, but there is a different atmosphere.  Here, among the trees just turning colors the second weekend of October, potters and weavers, photographers and woodcarvers who likely got their start at Berea College (known for its “artsy-craftsy” flair) set up their wares; if not Bereans, they at least share a common regional spirit that is more obviously identifiable than any at the big city festival which draws contributors from all over the world. The clientele is decidedly different, too:  more seem to be there to support the artists than to support their shopping habit, to see than to be seen, if you will. The mist rising from the surrounding mountains, the aroma of wood smoke and wet leaves, the whine of a fiddle or  the twang of a dulcimer, the burn of the welcomed mug of hot cider—it’s a sensuous smorgasbord, unspoiled by an urban superficiality as throw-away as a Starbucks’ cup.  And, as I am one of the cross-overs, I feel I have earned the right to this slightly judgmental opinion that applies to each side of my own split personality.  😉

The above effusion over my two favorite fairs leaves little room for an enthusiastic review of the other enchanting fetes I unearthed just these past couple of months:  the Woodland Park event in Lexington was a hugely pleasing surprise, just as the little Midway Festival was a delightful discovery; the J-town Gaslight Festival and even the Nunnlea Art Show did not disappoint.  I have one left to encounter tomorrow—Bardstown—and I am already convinced it will live up to my expectations.  I am already looking forward, too, to the myriad Christmas craft fairs that dot my calendar from here to the new year, and those promised with the spring: the Franciscan Art Fair at my own college in the spring, as well as Cherokee Park, and whatever else pops up with the tulips.

There have been fun events offering a surfeit of shopping opportunities everywhere I’ve lived; even Oklahoma (which did not impress me much in so many ways) surprised me with the number of art fairs it supported.  I have enjoyed and loved them all.  But, like a wandering spouse who has returned to her first love and been received like the prodigal she is, there’s no place like home for the homemade, homespun, homegrown.  It’s in the blood, the DNA, the dirt still clinging to the roots uprooted and replanted.   It’s good to be home feathering the nest again.

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3 Responses to “She Moved Through the Fairs”

  1. brileyrebecca October 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Should have proofed more carefully! Maggie was Garry’s successor, not the other way around. Not going to correct anything else that could have been made better with more drafts–sorry! It irritates me too, but not enough to do anything about it! lol

  2. Luttrell, Jennifer (LRC) October 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Glad you had fun ☺

  3. brileyrebecca October 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    One more necessary correction: Cherokee Triangle, not Park! And just a note on Bardstown: it was more crafts than art, but unique in its own way, and lots of fun. Loved seeing Julie Hapgood and getting some pottery, as well as a lovely silk scarf and a bonsai!

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