Rain and wind cuts arts festival short

A burst of rain and wind ripped through Jawbone Park Saturday, taking with it signs, light products and even moving vendor tents, as artists and chili cookoff participants grabbed their wares in an effort to prevent damages.

Many of the participating artists quickly packed up their fragile works and ended the festival early – around 1 p.m.

Participants in the chili cookoff toughed it out, and the judging for the contest was pushed to an earlier time.

“It’s really a shame,” said Carol Meese, who was supervising the Upshur County Pro Start chili booth. “I’m sure everybody worked very hard for this to happen. What can you do? You make the best of it. Everybody’s still smiling.”

The event was set to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but before it’s abrupt end, many guests still were able to browse the artwork and taste test the chili.

“Despite the rain, I’d say that the turn-out is very good,” Raedjio Arrowroot of Shanty Town Circus in Buckhannon said. “The craftsmanship is excellent. It’s wonderful that we can have such an exposition of arts in this region.”

Art vendors displayed everything from photography, paintings and glasswork to pottery, jewelry, drawings and baskets.

“I love baskets because you can take this raw material, with changing color and shape, and you can create thousands of different products,” Shelia Brown of Kingwood said. “I took a basket-making class probably about 25 years ago. It was a hobby. When my children went to college, it filled that empty nest syndrome.”

Brown was among the many artists who packed up and left early as the weather rained on her plans to show and sell her work. Although she traveled to Buckhannon from Kingwood, she said she would rather protect her baskets than risk losing all of her product. It was her first year participating in the festival.

Al Tucker, a member of the Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club, said that the club sold a few photos and about six of its photo books. The group also packed up and left the festival early to protect the photographs that were on sale by its various members.

This year, there was no set-up fee for the artists to participate in the festival because of a grant awarded to the festival’s hosts, the Main Street Arts Cooperative. Before storms forced the vendors to seek shelter, the skies were gray and a light rain trickled to the ground. The gush of wind and rain came suddenly and unexpectedly to some of the artists.

“I actually didn’t really expect it to rain,” Sarah Howard of Buckhannon said. “For the artists to have to pack up and leave so early, hopefully, it wasn’t too bad for them.”

Howard had four paintings on display at a shared booth.