MARQUETTE - The 19th annual Outback Art Fair kicked off with a bang Saturday as warm weather and sunshine drew huge crowds to the Picnic Rocks beach area.
"The weather is always nice down there because of the trees," said event organizer Cindy Engle, adding the Picnic Rocks location provides the fair with a unique atmosphere. "It's a little more laid back than some art shows because it stretches out along the bike path. It just has a good feel to it."
The fair had more vendors than usual this year, Engle said, with more than 100 booths set up along the bike path. All of the Outback staples were present Saturday from handwoven rugs to carefully crafted walking sticks, metal garden displays to homemade soap, handmade jewelry to nature photography.
Lamps comprised of Upper Peninsula sandstone and driftwood made by Whispering Pines Studios of Mercer, Wis., are shown at this year’s Outback Art Festival, which continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Artists Matt and Liz Hanson of Mercer, Wis., have a booth displaying their unusual "fire rocks" and electric lamps made from Upper Peninsula sandstone and driftwood. The fire rocks use fiberglass wicks that never burn out to burn paraffin oil from a small reservoir attached to the bottom of the rocks.
Liz Hanson said it was Whispering Pines Studios second visit to the Outback show.
"We love the area. There's nice people here," Hanson said. "It's been a good day. The temperatures are just right."
Further up the stretch is Kari Resch's cribbage and euchre board booth, two essential card games for most Upper Peninsula residents. Resch's Cribbage USA company is based out of Boyne City, and she said Saturday was her first time as a vendor in the Outback fair.
Resch said she's been hearing plenty of cribbage stories from passersby, adding that shoppers "love the euchre boards."
Right at the beginning of the fair is Washed UP Soap Co., based out of Big Bay. Owner Linda Fleury makes handcrafted soaps of all kinds, from dog shampoo to soaps made from bear fat. This year, Fleury said, the soap seems to be flying off the shelves, with the dog shampoo being the no. 1 seller of the day as it sold out before the fair closed Saturday.
"It's been wonderful," Fleury said. "Lots of people are coming in. The weather is perfect and the venue is beautiful."
Fleury said she's been a vendor in the Outback Art Fair for as long as she can remember, but this year will stick out as a big year for Washed UP Soap.
"I made soap like a crazy woman," Fleury said, adding that she made extra soap in preparation for her booth at Outback as well as at Friday's Blueberry Festival. "It just keeps going."
Shoppers were also able to keep their hunger at bay with T's Taste of Chicago, Stucko's mobile restaurant and Sugar Island Kettle Korn all on hand with quick, portable food.
The Outback Art Fair will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is email@example.com.