30 years of festival fun – Sent-trib

The Black Swamp Arts Festival capped off its 30th year with happy artists and happy crowds.

Artists attributed the continued success of the festival to the organizers.

When the festival first started, the organizers had a plan and executed it. They realized they were onto something “despite the torrential rain,” said Brett Young, who has had his Hot House Glass at all 30 festivals.

The combination of art and music and the expansion of the beer garden have led to the festival’s growth, said Young, who is from Bowling Green.

“It’s really community based. There are so many people involved from different avenues … they just continue to try to make it better every year. They haven’t rested on their success,” he said.

Ellen Fure Smith also praised the organizers, and said the artists are well taken care of and given plenty of space.

“I’ve done other shows and this one is by far the most organized one,” said Fure Smith, who owns Little Bare Furniture in Bowling Green.

Adam Goldberg, who has Gathered Glassblowing Studio, traveled from Toledo to set up in the juried show for the first time.

“You can totally feel the vibe. Everywhere I look, there are volunteers and you can see the whole community of Bowling Green comes together to put this on,” he said.

Darlene Petkwitz was volunteering on Sunday in the Youth Arts area for the first time after working elsewhere in the festival for the past 15 years.

She attributed the success of the festival to the great organizers.

“They know the kind of music to bring in, they know how to contact the artisans, they know how to put something together for kids and they adjust it based on what people want,” Petkwitz said.

The Juried Art Show had ceramics, fiber and leather, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography and digital art, printmaking, sculpture and wood.

Young and Larry Zengel create hot-sculpted glass for their Bowling Green-based business, Hot House Glass.

Their display was a kaleidoscope of colored marbles and glass orbs. Young said their art was unique in that the color of their marbles is extraordinary.

“There is connection that people have with marbles, either from being a kid or the shape, there’s something about them that reminds people of the past,” Young said.

Fure Smith said she was honored to be one of the local artists chosen for the juried art show.

“We have a great art scene in Bowling Green,” she said, “and I think it’s really fun to be one of the people that represent that art scene in town.”

A member of the Bowling Green Arts Council, this was her eighth year at the festival selling her chairs and planters, which she makes with Baltic birch plywood.

“I think this has been a great year. There have been people everywhere, enjoying themselves … people come into town for this festival,” she said.

Said Oladejo-Lawal, a painter from Columbus, won Best in Show in the Juried Art Show.

He said he gets his inspiration from music and people watching.

“I’m seeking to represent music in colors on canvas,” he said. “When you’re standing in front of a canvas, you can hear, feel and emote the music being represented in a two-dimensional surface.”

He’s been painting since 1998 when he lived in Nigeria. This is his third year at the festival. He works with oil-based paint on large canvases.

“I would love to work larger than this but I’m constraint by space,” he said. “The large canvases allow me to express more … and be able to (add) little nuances of feelings and colors.”

He said the organizers are very hands-on and they take care of the exhibitors while other exhibitors are very encouraging.

Jeff Borda, of Dayton, returned for his fifth year with handcrafted ballpoint and rollerball pends.

He said he keeps coming back because he likes the way the artists are treated.

“They are very, very artist friendly,” he said about festival organizers.

Robin Chard had to redesign her booth Sunday to showcase her solid sterling and gemstone rings.

She said she was worried with Friday’s rain, but Saturday’s cool weather brought out the crowds.

“We had probably my best one-day sales ever,” she said about Saturday. “The people were so much fun and nice. I will definitely be back next year.”

“Today is gravy,” she said early Sunday while she scrounged to get other stock out so her tables didn’t look picked over.

“That’s a nice problem to have,” said Chard, who traveled from Louisville, Kentucky, for her second appearance at the festival.

“They run a great show here,” she said.

Pubof.com had an end booth to showcase their portraits of pubs from around the world.

Toledo was represented, as were Ann Arbor, Green Bay, Wrigleyville and of course Bowling Green.

Adam Briggs, who helps out with the shows, said they were expecting a slow Friday with the rain, but Saturday was a record day.

This is their third year at the festival.

“The people are fantastic. We’re from Michigan originally, and every time we come out of state, we’re always impressed with the liveliness of the people from Ohio, especially at shows like this,” he said, “because everyone’s excited and there’s a great energy going on.”

The business started with a spoof of the bars of East Lansing. The popularity of that design had them taking requests. They currently have 150 different communities represented. There are only two scenes they haven’t been to personally: Transylvania and the North Pole, Briggs said.

Erica Miklovic, who owns Happy Camper Art Studio, was set up for the second year in the Wood County Invitational Art Show.

She’s been an artist for over 20 years and this year’s festival “has been fantastic.”

“Better than expected, great crowds and lots of great art,” said Miklovic, who is from North Baltimore.

“It’s the greatest arts festival in Northwest Ohio,” Miklovic said. “People have come from all over … to see the featured artists.”

She attributed the longevity of the festival to the high-quality artists and live music, she said.

Music genres included gospel, blues, folk, country, psychedelic, jazz, bluegrass and rock n’ roll.

Amy Karlovec, who has designed 21 of the 30 festival posters, was located with business, LazaInk.

Karlovec’s poster art has won several awards over the years.

“It’s very exciting to see my artwork win awards. It keeps me going,” said.

For LazaInk, family members create alcohol ink artwork and she takes the backgrounds they don’t use to create her own illustrations, she said.

Karlovec, of Bowling Green, praised all the volunteers who support the festival and said they were integral to the festival’s three decades of success.

Nadine Musser, of Weston, returned for her 10th festival with her Silver Wear by Nadine.

Saturday “was phenomenal,” she said.

Musser hand crafts sterling silver plated necklaces and bracelets from vintage silverware.

“It’s a great crowd. We have a lot of fun and always do really well here and I get to see old friends,” she said about why she has returned year after year to the festival.

The lines at the food trucks Saturday stretched the length of the parking lot but Denny Smith and his daughter Dana both took advantage of a slow Sunday morning to get their sirloin tips.

Dana Smith, who lives in Cincinnati, returned to Bowling Green to meet some high school friends.

“It’s nice to see downtown BG attracting this attention,” said Smith, who is a 2001 Bowling Green School graduate.

Allison Hajez and 4-year-old son Henry were making a hat in the Youth Art tent.

Hajez, who is from Perrysburg, said she hadn’t been to the festival for many years but with four kids it was a good opportunity for the family to check out the Youth Arts area as well as the music and food.

It was Barb Marazan’s first time as a visitor at the festival.

“I like it,” said Marazan, who lives in Oregon. She showed off a bracelet and cup she had purchased. “It’s very nice. I will definitely come back.”

Her friend Mary Kay Parrish, from Whitehouse, said she had been to the festival before, many years ago.

“It’s just been amazing. Just between the past few years it keeps growing and growing, which is great,” she said.

Todd Ahrens, who is in his second consecutive year as festival chairman, said every year their motto is this is the best festival ever.

“There are always challenges, usually weather related,” he said, and recounted remnants of a hurricane that canceled one Sunday’s activities as well as the near rain-out the first year.

But bottom line, the festival “is about bringing art into the community and it’s a celebration of the arts,” Ahrens said.

As an all-volunteer festival, “we all take pride in coming together to support the arts and artists in our community,” he said.

All committees will meet later this month to recap the festival and discuss ways to improve next year. Planning for the 2024 Black Swamp Arts Festival will start in October.

Ahrens praised the board and community members as well as the volunteers who made the festival possible.

“It’s rewarding to see that happen,” he said.

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