The 34th Annual Eatonville Arts Festival is in full swing this weekend, delighting artisans and visitors alike with its high-quality artistry held in the pastoral setting of Glacier View Park.
“I love this festival,” said 80 year-old rip-saw painter Florence Burr, one of the long-standing denizens of the Arts Festival. “I love being under the trees and having the grass – it is so much better than being on a hot street in some down town area like so many other art shows.”
Strolling along the grassy aisle ways is indeed a superb complement to the dozens of exhibits that feature over one-hundred artisans, painters and crafts people.
Western-theme art is a staple of the Eatonville art show, and along with artists such as Ms. Burr, other masters of the genre are present, such as Fred Oldfield and Jim Gleason, with the former being akin to the Monet of cowboy paintings.
In addition, nationally-acclaimed Native American artist David Craig has a large booth and display, as is only fitting since he also has a gallery on Eatonville’s main street, Washington Ave.
There is a wide range of art displayed, from paintings to beadwork, including seascapes in watercolor by Olivia Williams, hand-crafted glasswork and mirrors, kids’ furniture and clothing.
Plus, there are historical exhibits, with an ancient-but-restored Eatonville school bus anchoring a display of local memorabilia, along with a sizeable collection of artifacts from days-gone-by at the Pierce County Historical Society (PCHS) booth.
“We have pictures and items from people’s homes that date back to 1887,” boasted Lacey Longpre, a 17-year old docent for the PCHS who is working on her senior project at Eatonville High.
One of the special features of the PCHS display is a video presentation on the work of local historian and teacher Abbi Wonacott, who has uncovered original facts on the Mashel Massacre and other notable events of Indian times.
Many local artists are featured, such as Gail Turner, who just moved to Eatonville from Graham, and Irene Neal of Puyallup, who is the president of the Rainier League of Artists.
In addition, emerging painter Jason McKissack of Tacoma displayed his western-themed acrylic and oil work, which is made all the more poignant as he tells his story of recovery from brain trauma suffered as a police officer.
One of the delights is viewing many artists as they work in situ. Seemingly around every bend an artist could be found with a brush in hand and dabbing their paints on a hand easel, showing passerbys art-in-action. Performing in public were painters McKissack and Neal, who were joined by long-time festival artist LeRoy Jesfield, who was creating a portrait of Ms Burr from a photograph.
Surprisingly, all the artists were willing to interrupt their work and chat with the curious.
“I was first at the Eatonville Arts Festival in 1974,” said LeRoy, adding proudly that he is the ‘T-shirt artist’ for this fair.
“We created the painting for the T-shirt by superimposing two photographs that we took in the Eatonville area,” LeRoy told the Mountain News, adding that the image of the two horses were captured just off Mountain Highway, and the scenic shot of Mount Rainer was taken later in the same area.
One of the true craft delights was first-timer Bill Mehees, who had a booth displaying re-built guitars, violins and other stringed instruments. Bill hails from St. Helens Oregon, which is a hamlet about 30 miles northwest of Portland, and he is the leader of a unique community organization called The Music Project.
“Our goal is to restore stringed instruments and sell them very affordably,” Bill said simply. “We want to help people begin to play music.”
The Music Project certainly delivers beautiful instruments at a great price. The guitars were selling at $75 apiece, and handsome violins with a bow and lined, hard-shell case cost $100.
“I expect to sell out,” said Bill. “We always do – every show!”
Surprisingly, the vast majority of instruments are sold to adults.
“We sell to two kinds of customers,” Bill said. “One group is composed of people who used to play but gave it up for some reason, and an inexpensive guitar or violin helps them get started again. The other group are folks who have never picked up a musical instrument and feel that the time is right and so is the price.”
Besides the art work, the festival also had a satisfying array of musicians performing on stage. Organized by Justine Reed of the Eatonville Dance Center, her selection of local performers was superb.
Cool Daddy and the Hot Flash Mommas delivered a hour-long set of folk-rock ballads from the 60s that featured the vocal harmonies of Betty Zenkner (aka ‘Betty from the hardware store’) and Cindy Gonzalez, accompanied by guitarist George Gonzalez.
Youngster Natasha Henley charmed the audience Friday night with her “American Idol-style” vocal presentations of pop and country tunes.
However, the group that got the crowd at least “chair-dancing” if not up on their feet was the Rowe family foursome from Elbe. Known as the Elbow County Ruff Ridders, they featured twin brothers – with Wyatt, on guitar, and Forrest on bass – and are backed by their younger brother Morgan on drums. Together they delivered a rocking honky-tonk of 50s and 60s tunes, such as Johnny B. Goode and Earth Angel.
However, the scene stealer was their eight-year old sister Montana “Tana” Rowe whose enthusiastic vocal accompaniment while starring at her big brothers on the Beatles’ Act Naturally was utterly charming.
As in years past, another treat of the arts festival is the wood-smoked roast beef (I recommend getting the onions, too). Only $5.75, it’s a real-deal bargain, and the proceeds go to charity, as do the monies gathered on Sunday’s art auction at 1 pm, and the “Quick Draw” sketches on Saturday.
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