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Afton "Art in the Park" back for another year

Paintings, pictures and pots -- and a whole lot more -- were on display during last year's Afton Art in the Park. File photo.

Afton Art in the Park has been a popular fall-time activity for the past 31 years since it gives people the opportunity to enjoy the artistic talents of the vendors, but also enjoy all of Afton has to offer.

"They make an event day out of it," said Kathy Jarvis, one of the organizers from the Afton House Inn. "They go to the park and look at the art, maybe stay here over night, have dinner at one of the restaurants in town and visit some of the local shops -- they can really make a whole event day out of it, not just an hour thing."

The 31st Annual Afton Art in the Park will be Sept. 26-27 in Town Square Park in downtown Afton.

"It's such a quaint setting," event organizer Deb Larson said. "It's a perfect spot for an art festival."

Keep the event in Afton

This year's Art in the Park will include roughly 50 to 60 vendors -- ceramics, painting, photography, stained glass, sculpture, jewelry, handmade purses, prints, wood carvings and metal work -- who come from all around Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and even Florida.

"It's unique, you can't just go to the store and buy this stuff," Larson said. Art in the Park will also have several food vendors, -- to benefit the Afton Pre-School Center -- live music in the gazebo and the MG Car Club Show along the boulevards.

Art in the Park has proven popular year after year since it was first started in 1979 by the Riverfront Artisans group as a way to showcase local artists.

"If you have a good year, you have people lined up and down the street -- it can be a couple thousand people," said Cindy Melzer, an event organizer from the Afton Pre-School. "Some people just use the fair as an excuse to come out here, see the color, go to Selma's and the apple orchard. "Even if people don't buy, they still come out and see it and are part of it --it's the whole community thing, you see people you don't see any other time."

Sometime in the mid-1980's, the Art in the Park festival merged with the Phipps Center for the Arts, in Hudson, Wis.

The Phipps had been organizing primarily everything for Art in the Park until this year when they decided to move the event to Hudson in conjunction with its Spirit of St. Croix festival.

Afton arts enthusiasts wanted to try and keep the event going because of its popularity, so the Afton Area Business Association took the lead. "It was a lot of scrambling this summer," Melzer said.

Having the Phipps relocate the festival to Hudson has proven to be a bit of a blessing in disguise for Afton Art in the Park, Jarvis said, as many of the vendors went with the Phipps to the new festival in Hudson, the Afton Art in the Park was able to find a lot of new vendors for this year.

Looking for vendors

To find the vendors for this year's festival, the Afton Area Business Association went around to other art fairs and festivals in the Twin Cities and solicited for artists.

"We actually went out and recruited," Larson said. "We went to other art shows and saw beautiful art work and recruited people because we wanted to make sure we had interesting, creative, fresh stuff."

Even though there could be potential for competition among the two fairs, Larson said she doesn't think that will be the case because Afton Art in the Park is a tradition for many, and many people like visiting all of the various art festivals in the area.

"Some people will make a whole day out of it," she said. "They will go from one to the next."

The organizers said they are very confident that this year will prove to be just as popular as previous years because it's a fun tradition with a small town feel.

"It's going to be the best fair ever," Jarvis said. "It really brings the community together."

Afton Art in the Park will be Saturday Sept. 26 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday Sept. 27 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

For more information about the event, and to see the list of vendors, visit www.AftonArtFair.com.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976
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