Black Swamp fest packs the house PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Monday, 09 September 2013 10:05
Elvin Bishop on the main stage during the 21st annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The fires on the grills and smokers had just been extinguished Sunday. The tents were starting to come down, and rugby players from the university were being marshaled to fold and stack chairs in the Main Stage area in Bowling Green's Lot 2.
And Roger Shope, who chairs the committee that stages the Black Swamp Arts Festival, was ready to start work to put on another show.
Shope smiled as he recalled the weekend. Crowds that packed the nighttime concerts and strolled through the downtown art fair.
The reports were still coming in, but based on the number of kegs of beer that had been consumed, and the number of trucks pulling in throughout the weekend to restock the food vendors, this festival had drawn a crowd. PHOTO GALLERY
Before blues rocker Elvin Bishop's show at 8 Saturday night there was not a seat to be had in the Main Stage area. People were packing the aisles not because they wanted to be up and dancing, though there was plenty of that, but because chairs were a rare commodity. In the beer garden on the southern end of the lot, people stood elbow to elbow chatting and quaffing their preferred beverages.
Business was so brisk that Shope ended up pouring beer late Saturday night. His first job as a volunteer 18 years ago, he said, was pouring beer.
Sandy Wicks, one of the founders of the festival and recipient of this year's Dan Baglione Service Award, said she remembered when the event was in its planning stages more than 21 years ago.
She and the others dreamed that maybe they could do a festival that would bring 5,000 people to town. While the number of those participating in the weekend event is impossible to calculate, organizers say it brings about 65,000 people to town. All indications are that there were more this year.
The weather cooperated except for a shower Saturday afternoon.
Shope was undeterred. "Did it rain?" he asked.
People just moved into the shops, he said, which is not a bad thing for local businesses.
One long-time exhibitor Rebecca Levenson, who makes jackets, said she just invites festival-goers into her tent to get out of the rain.
She said she tells them they don't have to buy anything. But her sales were good during the duration of the rain.
Levenson was not alone in reporting good sales.
"It was a strong show for them," Brenda Baker, who chairs the festival's visual arts committee, said of the artists.
Daniel Powers, a photographer who won the award for best two-dimensional work, said he's seeing an uptick in the economy.
"I have people saying 'I've been looking at this for five years, and now I'm going to get it.' So apparently, they have a little money again."
Molly Bomer, of Bowling Green, was among those buying art. She bought a print from Andy Van Schyndle. This was the third year she'd bought something from him.
She was attracted by his booth, a towering wood structure, and his paintings which mix the whimsical and the surreal, including images of vampire penguins.
Bomer grew up with the festival and remembers going to the youth art area and working on projects. Going to this festival certainly helped inspire her. She now studies art at Bowling Green State University.
Bomer said she remembers as a child seeing the artists' booths and thinking maybe someday she could make art and have her own booth.
The newly-named Kiwanis Youth Arts Village was a busy place said Matt Reger, who chairs the youth arts committee. The area ran out of the 1,000 tiles it had on hand for children to paint.
Other supplies, including shirts for the old-standby, tye-dying, were in short supply by Sunday afternoon.
Reger said the committee took a chance by changing all the other activities in line with the international theme, with faux stained glass windows, Egyptian necklaces and Mexican masks.
The kids took the changes in stride as did the hundreds of volunteers who help them fashion their creations. Reger said the 400 youth arts volunteers  include university students, school teachers, community members and high school students.
The performance stage had a strong contingent of university performers starting with the faculty jazz quartet and the university jazz singers, closing on Sunday with the taiko drumming ensemble. But there were also a number of Main Stage acts including the Slide Brothers, a gospel steel guitar ensemble, and the calypso ensemble Kobo Town.
The festival's mix of activities attracts Lori and Tom Sherman, of Holland, to the show. "I just love the atmosphere. We look forward to it every year."
They had bought a piece of art and also stopped in and made a purchase at the Flower Basket. Later they planned to stop in to Sam B's to get supper.
Virginia and Keith Gilford, from La Salle, Mich., also love the atmosphere. They like the music, and she said "I always find something I can't live without."
They brought their two dogs to the festival. "People are always happy to see the dogs," she said.
BGSU sophomore Jocelyn Williams said this year was the first time she's made it to the festival. It's well promoted on campus, she said.
Williams said she was glad she and her friends came. "It's really chill."
She enjoyed the music, the food, the art, but mostly "I like the different variety of people."
That variety includes about 1,000 volunteers it takes to stage the event.
Shope said that as soon as the festival is cleared away, work for the next year begins. The performance arts committee, chaired by Kelly Wicks, is already investigating acts for next year.

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