Waterfront Art Fest returns today

Above, festival-goers look at woven rugs and products at the booth of Mark and Cathy Morey, of Washburn, Wis. (Escanaba Daily Press photo)

ESCANABA — The Waterfront Art Festival will be returning to Ludington Park today for the 50th year.

Acting as one of the largest art festivals in the area, the event gives local artists a chance to showcase and sell their creative works.

All mediums, including paintings, pottery, and handmade jewelry, will be represented from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. The event is free and open to the public.

“Just about anything that you can think of that would be at an art show is going to be at the festival,” Paula Jordan, events coordinator at the Bonifas Arts Center, said.

The festival is a large event for the Upper Peninsula, drawing art-enthusiasts from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Lower Michigan who are interested in supporting local artists. The 40 artists that are currently registered for the event hail from various locations in the region.

While some artists travel from Northern Wisconsin and Lower Michigan to display their art, roughly 95% of registered artists are U.P. based. In the past, the event has accommodated over 4,000 attendees, with numbers expected to be just as high this year.

“Sometimes people that are just traveling through the area will see that there is a festival and just stop in,” Jordan said. “We have had people come from all over to attend.”

As a juried art show, vendors who sought to attend the festival had to submit an application and example of their work before being admitted. The artists had to meet certain criteria in order to qualify, differentiating the Waterfront Art Festival from a run-of-the-mill craft show.

Considered a more professional environment, a jury of three to five individuals critiqued all submitted work and determined if it was of the quality that the Waterfront Art Festival is known for.

“If it is an artist’s first year, then they have to be juried in,” Jordan said. “If they were in Waterfront 2021 or Waterfront 2019, they don’t need to be juried into the show.”

Most of the artists will be placed in a “Best of Show” competition for their specific art medium. For example, all submitted glasswares will compete against each other to see which is the best.

After the judges select the Best of Show for each specific medium, the winners will be entered to win the Waterfront Art Festival Best of Show, or the event’s top prize.

This pits the top pieces from each individual category against each other, forcing judges to make a difficult decision based on originality, quality, craftsmanship, and many other unique criteria.

Additionally, art raffle tents containing prints, wood carvings, and other handmade pieces will be scattered throughout the park. After purchasing tickets and writing down a name and address, attendees can select which art piece they would like to win by placing their tickets into corresponding jars.

“You could win a thing of yarn because we have a local artist that dyes her own yarn with all different colors, so she has some pretty cool stuff,” Jordan said. “Anything that has been made [at the festival] you will be able to get at the art raffle tent.”

Young artists will also have a chance to display and sell their work, with the Young Artists’ Market returning to the Waterfront Art Festival this year. The market has reached its maximum capacity of 20 vendors, all of whom have spent their summer vacations creating art to sell. From handwoven blankets to intricate earrings, and even bat houses, the market will be a first for many of these kids when it comes to peddling their products.

“[The Young Artists’ Market] gives the kids a chance to test their entrepreneurship skils,” Jordan said. “They will be selling, learning how to price their items, and make new goods,”

Children not involved in the Young Artists’ Market have an opportunity to get involved at the youth activity tent, where they will be able to create their own piece of art to take home.

Festival attendees are encouraged to peruse the diverse selection of creative works and converse with local artists about their style, methods, and inspirations when creating.

Several food vendors will be stationed at Ludington Park throughout the festival hours, along with live entertainment and music taking place at the Karas Bandshell.

“[Attendees] can look forward to old and new artist vendors. Some of them come back year after year,” Jordan said. “As far as the public, the Yoopers specifically, can look forward to seeing artists and friends that are coming back because this may be the only time they get to see them.”


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