Nearly perfect festival weather, combined with cleared construction from the downtown Bowling Green roads, made for a full Black Swamp Arts Festival weekend.
The biggest free music and arts festival in Ohio filled the downtown area from late Friday through Sunday.
Nikki D, the steel guitar songstress of Nikki D and the Browns, arrived early Friday evening greeting Bill Donnelly, the festival chairman, with a 30-second impromptu scat on the street. The private little performance included Michael Trotter, of the War and Treaty.
While Trotter would tear up the town with a knockout show on Friday night, Nikki D wasn’t set to play the festival until Sunday.
“That’s what we do. We support our friends,” Nikki D said.
That little greeting was a tiny preview of the sonic tornado that Nikki D would unleash on the audience with her pedal steel guitar as the Main Stage closing act.
Nikki D and the Browns were just one of the many acts returning to the festival stages. Last year’s Sunday musical shows were canceled or moved indoors to local venues, due to incessant rain.
Samantha Fish set the festival tone on Friday night. Switching to an electric cigar box guitar from one of her many more standard electrics, she claimed the blues rock title, all done in pink stiletto heels.
Main Street was packed Saturday morning as the art vendors, potential customers and general art fans converged on the double row of booths that dominated the downtown.
Dominick Woods, 12, whose family had moved from Bowling Green to Perrysburg last summer, was glad to be at the festival again.
“I’ve seen carvings, paintings and metal work. I liked how the guy made really cool pictures from really cool angles,” Dominick said. He was also hoping to meet some old friends.
“I also want to see some fishing related stuff, because I like fishing,” Dominick said.
Flatlands Coffee was doing brisk business, with a constant line at the register.
“I’m so grateful to the new roads and I’m also so grateful for the new water lines. Our water filter is working smoother than ever before,” said Ben Vollmar, the coffee shop owner. “All these artistic minded people and seeing the liveliness downtown is so encouraging, positive and viral. I love seeing the smile on everyone’s face.”
On the southern end of Main Street the chalk contest drew fans.
Terra Sloane, of Bowling Green Team 1, took a minute to explain their road art.
“The theme is family, so we’ve got the Black Swamp mascot with a family of salamanders,” she said.
“Everybody made a really strong showing,” said judge Chris Fry. “So it was really hard to pick a winner.”
Prizes went to these schools’ art departments:
1st: Northview High School, $500
2nd: Bowling Green High School, Team 1, $250
3rd: Wayne Trace High School, $100
“Using the space and the chalk and the limited amount of time, they only had four hours to pull something together,” Fry said. “It was fun to watch them, not only to execute their design, but then working with chalk on this scale, that they are not used to, and overcoming obstacles along the way and working as a team, making design changes in order to get things done.”
The juried art show had more than 100 vendor booths. The Best of Show winner, Nick Ringelstetter, of Spring Green, Wisconsin, received $1,500 in prize money. This was his second time at the festival.
“It’s its own genre,” Ringelstetter said, describing his art. “The best way to break it down is as Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton merged with Rat Fink, Big Daddy Roth.
“It’s a mixed media with watercolors, acrylics, pens and markers. The term I like to use is pop-psychedelic.”
Ringelstetter also does his art on a variety of media, including skateboards and classic canvas, but he’s becoming known for using old road signs, with stop signs being his favorite.
His star has been rising in the last year. He recently did an art car for Mini USA.
The music genres over the weekend ranged from Johnny Rawls singing soul blues, to the Band of Heathens and their ‘70s rock harmonies. Then there was the Texas punk infused rockabilly from Two Tons of Steel and the unusual sound of Toko Telo, from Madagascar.
With three music stages going for three days, if that didn’t tickle the fancy, then maybe the Saturday night closer, the party band Shinyribs, sure made a lot of people happy. Like last year, they closed out Saturday with a conga line headed by Kevin Russell, on a cool clear night without the rain.