Mother Nature always shows up for the Black Swamp Arts Festival whether she's invited or not. She doesn't have to submit images of her artwork, or sign a performer's contract, or gather materials for children's art projects. She's there. Count on it.
What organizers can't count on is what kind of mood she'll be in, stormy or sunny.
This year she was all smiles, delivering blue skies and daytime temperatures in the mid to upper 70s from the first note from the rock band Shaggus on Friday to the final credit card swipe in an artist's booth on Sunday. That had volunteers who produce the annual event in downtown Bowling Green all smiles as well. [PHOTO GALLERY]
Good weather is "crucial" for the success of the event, said Dave Shaffer, in his second year as festival chairman. "The mere threat of bad weather keeps people home."
This year the festival's crowds appeared to exceed those of previous years, he indicated. Organizers have no way of getting a precise head count for attendees because it's a free event with people coming and going over the festival's 27 hours of operation.
But all indications point to large crowds, starting with a packed house Friday and Saturday nights for the music, Shaffer said.
One concessions operator told Amy Craft, who chairs the concessions committee, that he just did one of the biggest art fairs in the country, and he sold more in Bowling Green.
Beverage sales on Friday night, Shaffer said, were better than last year's and last year's sales were good.
Another measure of traffic was that the youth arts area was running low on supplies by mid-afternoon on Sunday, said Martha Everett, who chairs that area. "Our numbers are way up. We've just been perpetually busy."
Linda Brown, co-chair of visual arts, said that after talking to the artists in the juried show, the worst she heard was that a few may have just broken even, but many more had good to excellent sales.
Performance chairman Kelly Wicks said the Saturday crowd was large, right up until the end of the last song from Cowboy Mouth. "That really impressed me."
The economy has cast a shadow on festivals around the country this year, but that seems to be lifting. "It seems like something happened in the last couple weeks that people are buying again," said Rebecca Levenson, a long-time exhibitor in the art show.
"A lot of people have cut back, but they always make it here," said Shaffer. "Maybe people are just starved for something to do."
"It gives you something to go to, and you don't have to spend any money," said Emily Cherry, of Bowling Green, who was there with her husband, Bill. "The local community gets that little money you do spend."
Bill Cherry said he enjoys "seeing all the different people at the fair, all different sorts of people, all together, having a good time."
"The festival gives the community the opportunity to come together," said Lori Maas, of Bowling Green, who was there with her two children.
And, she added, it gives people a chance to volunteer.
The festival relies on more than 600 volunteers every year, almost 400 in the youth art area alone. Those come from all segments of the community, including many Bowling Green State University students.
As the clean up operation was getting underway Sunday just after 5 p.m., Shaffer was directing members of the rugby team as they cleared away dozens of tables and hundreds of chairs from the area in front of the Main Stage. Swimmers, divers and hockey players helped out with tie-dyeing in the youth arts area. Air Force ROTC cadets were on hand at 5 a.m. Saturday to help with art show set up and fraternity brothers came out on Saturday night to do security for the art show on Main Street.
BGSU President Carol Cartwright's husband, Phil, also got in the act, playing a set with his old-time New Orleans style band on the festival's acoustic stage.
"It's got a nice vibe to it," blues singer Curtis Salgado said of the event as he sat backstage before he went on Saturday. He attributed it to being run by volunteers, and not driven by the demands of a major corporate sponsor.
Even before this year's festival had been cleared away, Shaffer promised a festival "at least as big a festival next year, if not expanded."
Everett said, from her perspective as youth arts charwoman, success breeds higher expectations. People expect new activities and entertainment. "We'll have to add on."
Front page caption: Little Cow performs in front the of the Huntington Bank building.
Story caption: People walk main street looking over offerings of the artists. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)