By Hope Quay
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

Arts Festival grows as organizers continue working on improvements


August 15, 2018

Roger Dey

Members of the Front Range Art Association set up their booth Sunday morning before the Arts Festival resumed for the day

Despite temperatures in the 90's and a brief rainstorm on Saturday, Lincoln's second annual Arts Festival seemed to go off without a hitch last weekend.

The Arts Festival was born last year when Lincoln's Council for the Arts voted to re-energize the annual Art in the Park by updating the traditional summer art show to a festival atmosphere.

In the hands of organizers Sue Tynes and Karyn Good, and with the collaboration of several local organizations and sponsors, the 2017 event became an interactive experience featuring a juried collection of fine and folk art, live music and food and beverage vendors, culminating in Lincoln's first annual Continental Divide Trail Gateway Community Celebration.

Although the festival was met largely with approval last year, Good said the Festival Committee began brainstorming improvements almost immediately following the event.

"We added even more to it," Good said of last weekend's Festival, "There was a lot of work, a lot of planning and a lot of collaboration involved. Every year we learn a little bit more. There will definitely be things we want to change or improve on, for next year. But I think we pulled it off pretty well."

The efforts of this year's Committee – made up of Tynes, Good, and Ron Gibson – proved worthwhile, as locals and out-of-towners alike made Hooper Park a destination over the weekend.

In 2017, the festival consisted of 34 participants, including artists and food vendors. This year, the number of artists alone swelled to 45 booths. Interactive family-friendly activities including a tie-dye booth sponsored by the Lincoln Valley Chamber of Commerce and a booth where kids could create their own spin-art paintings with Mackenzie Storey. Children and adults alike were also encouraged to add their mark to a "community canvas."

Several microbrews by Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company of Great Falls were available on tap from a mobile beer garden, and food was plentiful.

"I thought that was a really nice touch," Good said of the craft beers. "People are welcome to bring coolers, but it was nice for the people who maybe didn't know they were going to end up there, to be able to have a beer. They (Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company) volunteered to stay Sunday. I wasn't expecting them to stay, and they pulled in there at 11 o'clock on Saturday and were there until four on Sunday."

The Lincoln Heritage Alliance and the Upper Blackfoot Valley Historical Society provided pulled pork lunches Saturday and hosted a pancake breakfast Sunday. That afternoon, the LVCC celebrated Lincoln's second year as an official CDT Gateway Community with a free hamburger and hot-dog BBQ.

"I think it's a great overall thing for everybody," LVCC President Laurie Richards said Sunday. "I think the weather's great. I think we have a lot of happy people."

"The Chamber really stepped it up – those were good burgers, and good hot dogs," she said. "I heard a lot of comments about that."

The fair-like atmosphere was enhanced by vendors selling lemonade, popcorn and roasted nuts, and kids chased the strands of cotton candy that floated whimsically through the air on Sunday's light breeze.

While she hadn't yet had the opportunity to check in with other organizers and participants when she spoke to the BVD Monday, Good thinks cooperation and feedback will continue to be vital elements in the Festival's continued success.

"While it's still fresh in our minds, I would love to sit down with the people who helped organize this event and see what we can do better – not just the Arts Council or the Arts Festival Committee, but the Chamber, the Historical Society and the artists, too. They're sitting back and watching things that are going on, and I'm sure they have suggestions," she said.

Several artists, like longtime local artist and best in show winner Kathy Shaw said they were happy with their Festival sales.

"I have had a lot of artists say they had great sales, and I've had other artists say, 'I don't really care about my sales, I come here because it's really fun,'" said Good, who tries to touch base with each artist at some point during the festival.

Textile artisan and jewelry maker Larry McLellan traveled from Silver City, N.M. on the recommendation of an old classmate, Liz Cain. Cain and her husband Jerry are longtime supporters of the arts in Lincoln and have been a fixture at Art in the Park in years past.

McLellan said he only participates in events once or twice a year, and this was his first visit to Montana. On Sunday, he was happy with the attention his woven textiles and jewelry and the quilting work of his partner had received at the event.

"It's something different, and people like to stop and look at something different," he said.

The one problem for McLellan, who said he would definitely consider coming back to the festival in the future, was the volume of the music from the festival bands Saturday, which made it hard to answer questions and converse with people about his work.

"Honestly, he's right," Good admitted. "If you want to talk about what we're learning, there's that. Next year on Saturday, we're going to chill it out until five or six o'clock. We'll have it set up a lot more like Sunday, until evening – just somebody under the pavilion, playing and singing."

Good said the committee will continue to select a wide variety of bands spanning several genres for future festivals.

"We really make it a priority to have a diverse selection of music – something that will appeal to everyone," she said. "The music helps keep people there and just makes it more festive. A festival is not a festival without a crowd."

Nearly all the music was funded by donations, Good said. She said Lincolnstock organizer Gary Zadick was one of several local contributors, and the LVCC funded all of Sunday's entertainment.

"Overall I think it's a really great event, and...a real group effort," said Good. "I could not do this without Ron Gibson and Sue Tynes, they are just an amazing help. And it's all the better for the collaboration with the Chamber, and all of the others who contribute."

"That's the great thing about Lincoln," said summer visitor Lauren Morrison of Seattle, who enjoyed meeting locals, chatting with artists and relaxing to Sunday's music. "There's a genuine sense of community, and most places don't have that. Here, people care about each other. They help each other out. And it rains cotton candy.

I love Montana."

Roger Dey

Lavonne Jorgenson sets out her handmade pottery before the Arts Festival resumed Sunday morning. Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs perform for an appreciative crowd that talked them into an encore.


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