GAYS MILLS - Can floods cancel one of mid-America’s favorite art festivals? Not in the Driftless!! And not when beauty and friendship can do much to help in weathering storms like those that have hit communities across the Driftless region.
So, 81 of the finest visual artists from across the region will gather in a new, temporary location September 15 and 16, for the fourteenth annual Driftless Area Art Festival. Instead of Beauford T. Anderson Park in Soldiers Grove, the festival will take place less than 10 short miles away, on the grounds of the Crawford County Fair, just outside Gays Mills.
They’ll be joined by 10 local culinary artists and four musical groups, some familiar names from previous years and some new to the festival. The weekend will also draw visitors to restaurants, lodging and other regional businesses nearby or along the way, and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism has recognized the festival for bringing many thousands of dollars into the region. The 2017 festival attracted about 5,600 art lovers from 21 states and 255 zip codes and the 78 artists sold over $140,000 worth of art.
The festival features art in traditional, as well as contemporary, styles and includes pieces both functional and purely aesthetic. And creative pieces by elementary, middle and high school students will be on exhibit in the YouthArt tent, where young people can also experiment with a variety of artist activities. The entire listing of artists, and information of their media, can be found on the festival’s website and in postings on Facebook
A popular festival feature is the chance to vote for a favorite artist, in the People’s Choice contest. And kids can tag their favorites’ booths. In addition, Best of Show and Merit awards, carrying cash prizes, will be presented on Saturday and displayed for the rest of the weekend
A silent auction of works donated by participating artists will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, with proceeds going to help stage the festival. Art lovers can find a sampling of works from throughout the festival and sometimes get bargains as well.
Hungry and thirsty festivalgoers will be able to enjoy the culinary creations of area chefs, bakers, and brewers, all with local or organic offerings. Vendors include Apple’licious Pie Depot of Gays Mills, Crepes JeanLuc of LaCrosse, the Dawg House of Lynxville, Five Star Eggroll of Holmen, and Food for Thought, a taco truck staffed by youth from Viroqua’s Youth Initiative High School. Others include Julie’s Catering of Soldiers Grove, Kickapoo Coffee of Viroqua, Mary’s Berries of Ferryville, Tri-R Catering of Gays Mills, and the Soldiers Grove Lions Club, offering wine and beer.
Performing artists from the Driftless area will entertain on the main stage both days. Saturday morning features original songs and tunes of the Roddys playing their original songs, a great blend of Americana and alternative folk music. The afternoon features Patchouli, a perennial favorite from Maiden Rock on the Mississippi, offering Nuevo-flamenco music. They’ll also perform in the afternoon and during the artists’ reception that evening. Sunday’s artists are Kickapoo Joy Juice, whose lively polkas, beautiful waltzes, novelty songs, rags and reels offer a new take on old favorites. Sunday afternoon features the Medicine Brothers, a mostly acoustic family band specializing in folk, bluegrass, honkytonk and Americana.
Volunteers, young and old, will help make the weekend enjoyable for artists and patrons.
Theresa Yaeger of Ferryville and Diane Craig of Soldiers Grove have been recruiting volunteers and they say openings are still available for anyone interested.
“It’s a great way to meet artists,” said a long-time volunteer. “I come back each year to be part of this really wonderful weekend.” Volunteers get free Festival T-shirts and an invitation to the Saturday evening reception.
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 15, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, at the Crawford County Fairgrounds, 17725 Highway 131, just south of Gays Mills. Admission is free, and there’s plenty of free and accessible parking.
Major funding partners for the festival include sponsors: Peoples State Bank, the Village of Soldiers Grove and its Community Development Corporation, Go Macro, Wisconsin Public Radio, and Community Development Alternatives Inc. Benefactors include J Company Design Studio, Kickapoo Corners Family Restaurant, Kickapoo Creekside Restaurant, Kickapoo Kwikstop, LaCrosse Tent and Awning, Organic Valley Family of Farms, Richland Grant Telephone Cooperative, Rooted Spoon Culinary, Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative, Sleepy Hollow Auto, Star Valley Flowers, and Vernon Communications Cooperative, plus many other sponsors at the Patron and Supporter levels.
Special thanks to the Crawford County Board and its Fair Committee for their support and encouragement.
For full details on the Festival, its schedule, supporters and other features, visit the festival website at www.DriftlessAreaArtFestival.com and the festival Facebook page.