Locals and tourists alike enjoy the 54th annual West Shore Art Fair | News

Ludington residents and tourists alike found live music, a variety of food and art galore in Rotary Park this weekend at the 54th West Shore Art Fair.

Music blasted from the pavilion as families got their share of Mexican food, funnel cake, kettle corn, hot dogs, bubble tea and more.

The main event, however, was the fine art spread across the park under nearly 100 white tents.

The artists sold a variety of things, including ceramics, drawings, glassware, jewelry, leather, metalwork, paintings, photographs, and woodwork.

These artists had to go through a juried process where they submitted their work and the Ludington Area Center for the Arts selected 98 artists to be invited to the fair.

Andrew Skinner, coordinator of the West Shore Art Fair, said the artists did well this year and that the fair attracted a large crowd.

While the sidewalks were packed with people sliding from one tent to another, some people commented that there seemed to be fewer attendees this year.

Mike Kehr of Dragonfly Garage said there were still a lot of people, but he could tell by the lack of traffic that the town wasn’t as crowded as usual.

“I would say it’s the gas prices,” Kerr said. “I mean there’s usually so many cars on that street you can’t even cross it.”

He was referring to Ludington Avenue, which had long stretches of time without many cars passing by.

However, the event was still well attended and Skinner said he thought it was on par with past years. The picnic tables and benches were almost constantly occupied, especially those in the shade, as the sun was blazing all weekend.

Skinner was grateful for his wonderful volunteers who provided water bottles for the artists and helped set up and take down the tents.

“Artists love volunteers,” Skinner said. “They get them water and sit in the booth if the artist has to go have lunch or something.”

Kerr, who makes glass mosaics, agreed that this year’s fair was a success and well attended by locals and tourists alike.

“This is one of the best years ever,” he said.

Kerr said he’s been coming to the fair for about 15 years and every three years it looks particularly “awesome.” He also appreciates the support of the community and local residents who come to the fair.

“Sometimes the locals go away on weekends like this,” he said. “When a community stays supportive, it really helps.”

Skinner had local residents in mind when he planned the prizes for the booth winners.

There were 12 categories for winners: clay, drawing, fiber, glass, jewelry, leather, metals, mixed media, painting, photography, graphics and wood.

Each winner received a ribbon, certificate, automatic entry into the following year’s fair, application fee and jury process waivers, and $200 cash.

“We’re hoping they’ll spend it at local businesses or buy art here,” Skinner said. “Or maybe they’ll just buy gas, who knows.”

Garrett Rabers attended the fair this year with his parents, his wife and their dog Alfonso. This was the second year they had come and he said it would probably become a regular thing for them every summer.

While his wife Caroline enjoyed shopping for necklaces, artwork and gifts, Gareth enjoyed the food and drink offered by local traders.

“These are things you don’t usually get,” he said.

Caroline Rabers was excited about other aspects of the fair besides art, such as the music.

“I’m excited to hear the music live,” she said. “That was a nice touch.”

Nevada Keus, a young girl from Ludington, was also excited about the fair and wanted to participate as a vendor.

After walking around the booths on Saturday, she decided to go home and create some drawings that she brought back on Sunday. She arranged them on a picnic table and offered them to passersby.

“Everyone is so friendly,” said her grandmother, Theresa Keuss. “We always like to support these things. I think it’s important and a fun sense of community.”

In 2021, due to health department regulations, the booths had to have empty spaces between them, which was actually preferred by the artists who could sell on both sides of their tents.

This year, Skinner planned the layout so that two tents were right next to each other and then had an empty space on either side. This allowed the tents to still have an empty lot on one side and additional selling space while accommodating more vendors than last year.

“I’m really pleased with this year,” Skinner said, “with the new method, the high-quality artists and the beautiful weather.”

The vendors were also happy to have a neighbor, like Bill Counsell of Rust Bucket Metalworks, who was located next to the Dragonfly Garage.

Councell called Kerr a “fun neighbor” as he sat among his metal work. Many of his pieces were old instruments that he turned into decorations.

“Everyone always has a tool in their closet,” he said.

Councell has brought his business to Ludington for five or six years and has always done well, he said. He was happy about the good weather and the crowd.

“People on vacation are always in a good mood.”

He was also happy to see other steel workers. Instead of seeing them as competition, he looked at their work and shared ideas with them.

“It’s camaraderie,” he said. “Not everyone can look at it that way, but I do. It’s all fun.”

The fair provided arts for people of all ages, including crafts and balloon animals for children. There was also a children’s art buying tent on Saturday.

Volunteers went around the day before and collected donated parts from various vendors, then kids were allowed to tour the tent and buy parts for $5.

Only children were allowed in the tent so they could experience art buying for themselves, without adult influence. Skinner said she gets kids interested in art and teaches them how to appreciate it.

“We are building the next generation of art buyers,” he said.

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