Black Swamp celebrates 20 years

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Mark Kreischer poses with his woodworking. This was Kreischer’s third year at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, but he has been woodworking for 35 years. “It’s really relaxing for me,” he said.

Reporter and Reporter

The City of Bowling Green hosted the 20th Black Swamp Arts Festival this past weekend, which drew in about 60,000 people throughout its three day run.

The Friday festival featured food and music, and on Saturday and Sunday the art vendors came to show their work.

For Junior Melanie Albertson, who has lived in Bowling Green since she was 12 years old, the festival has become a tradition.

“How can you not go to the festival?” Albertson said.

One of the reasons people like Albertson keep coming back to the Black Swamp Arts Festival is for its notoriety as one of “Ohio’s best free festival(s),” said Matthew Karlovec, chair of marketing and public relations for Black Swamp Arts Festival.

Another plus is the festival is always free and open to the public, along with music and other entertainment.

Art vendors’ tents lined much of Main Street since being escorted in and set up Friday morning, according to a city press release. Music could be heard throughout the festival, coming from the main stage, the family entertainment stage and the acoustic stage on Main Street.

Many art vendors come from all over the country, and must go through a jury to get into the Black Swamp Festival, said Karlovec.

A group of 100 vendors are chosen by the jurors, and the vendors must then pay a fee to have a tent in the festival. If a vendor wins an award at the festival, they do not need to re-apply for the next year, said Jewelry Vendor Deborah Barnes.

Among the juried art vendors, there are also many artists from Bowling Green. An area of the festival was also dedicated to display artists at work.

One of the artists, J Farnsworth of Bloomington, Ind., sells wooden toys and a variety of kaleidoscopes. The kaleidoscopes take forms of animals, such as crabs, and of wooden cameras with kaleidoscopic lenses. Farnsworth has been in the business for 35 years, and this is his third year at the arts festival, Farnsworth said.

“I started out in wooden toys, and I switched to kaleidoscopes about 20 years ago,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth describes the festival as a “good show” and says “people are very responsive.”

Deborah Barnes of Mount Dora, Fla. sells jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, and rings at the festival. She has been coming to the festival for eight to ten years.

“I like small college towns,” Barnes said.

John Booth of Minneapolis, Minn. showed his paintings at the festival. Booth’s paintings were centered around cats, dogs, and everyday objects such as scrabble pieces.

Booth said the festival is very artist-friendly, and “the music is really good.”

Booth said he is inspired by “color, imagination and fun.”

“I paint subject matter that bursts with color and enthusiasm. I’m fascinated how a small object’s spirit and energy is so greatly magnified when painted large,” said a sign in Booth’s tent.

Among the crowds of people looking at fine art was University alumni Heather Gady, who traveled from Chardon, Ohio to see the festival.

“I was going to Michigan, and I haven’t been since college,” said Gady.

Though not much about the festival has changed since she’s last attended, she enjoys the glassware and music.

Freshman Gabbie Provencher, who has never been to the festival, said she enjoys the atmosphere and likes that fact there are “so many creative people.”

Like Provencher, Albertson is also a fan of the crowd of creativity the festival’s attendees and vendors brings in every year.

“I like walking around and seeing all the people,” Albertson said.