Changes in music and alcohol policy highlight this year’s festival

Warm sun. Green grass. Colorful banners suspended between tall leafy oaks. Live music. White tent tops as far as the eye can see. And everywhere, art. Pottery, watercolors, bronze sculpture, Oriental paintings, oil landscapes, photography. Silver jewelry. Fused glass. Wood carvings. Fiber and leather art.

If you have attended one of the past 57 Salem Art Fairs, you know the feeling. Strolling through aisle after aisle of beautiful, well-crafted art. People-watching. Finding that perfect coffee mug or wearable fabric art. Listening to one of many live musical performances or taking part in kids’ crafts activities. The Salem Art Fair is one of the largest juried art festivals in the Northwest, and it takes place on the third weekend of July in Bush’s Pasture Park on High Street. With over 200 craftspeople and artists, 3,000 volunteers and an estimated 100,000 visitors, this event is an Oregon favorite.

Artists interested in participating in the festival must submit slides to a jury months before the actual event. Out of 600 entries, only 200 were accepted for this show, a crushing bit of news for the other 400. Once accepted, artists must finish dozens of works, frame and prepare them for sale, pack and transport them to their assigned booths, and ready sales forms, decorating accessories and a chair from which to greet their many visitors.

Diane Trevett of Calla Studio has exhibited at this fair for five years, and averages as many as eight shows a summer from Bend to San Jose.

“One of the best rewards for doing an outdoor art fair is the interaction and conversation you have with your visitors,” she said. “Here you can really explain your work and find out why the person is attracted to it. Visitors are more likely to purchase your art when they can meet and know more about the artist.”

She feels this fair is one of the best organized, and the artists are treated well. Her painted natural images range from flowers to fruit, seashells and birds, all depicted in an abstract colorful manner. Trevett uses compositional formats such as diptychs and cropping to emphasize select parts of her subjects. In addition to original paintings and drawings, she offers prints, cards and magnets.
“My sales at the Salem Art Fair are very good. This is my best show. I am always amazed at how many people are attracted to my work. And the Fair does an excellent job of promoting this event, which brings in the large numbers of people.”

The opening celebration will be held Thursday July 20 in Bush’s Park Rose Garden at 6 p.m. Salem’s own bluegrass band True North will be featured and a home-style barbecue plus beer, wine and other beverages will be served. Cost is $20 in advance or $25 at the event.

At 9:30 on Friday morning, catch the colorful children’s parade complete with clowns at the southwest corner of Bush’s Pasture Park, which finishes at the Family Stage in the Cohen Kids’ Court with food and a comedy performance.

The organizers are especially proud of the music for this year’s fair. Bands will play for a half-hour longer each day. Friday’s blues music theme includes performances by the Dave Stewart Quartet and Reggie Houston, Paul deLay and Duffy Bishop. Saturday’s pop music theme includes the headliner Dirty Martini, a trio of female pop singers; Flat Mountain Girls, Americana; Jujuba, World-African; and Eight Track Mind, an electronic and hip-hop band. Sunday’s music themes center around Americana, Country and Blues, with the band Alice Stuart and the Formerlys. And that’s just on the Main Stage. On the Family Stage in the David Cohen Kids’ Court, a range of performers will entertain nonstop on all three days, including comedy acts, Irish dance, clogging, a sing-along, children’s educational theater, and a variety of jazz, old time and world music. For a complete listing, refer to the guide that will be handed to you by one of several volunteer Girl Scouts at one of the 10 entrances to the Fair.

Also new this year is a change in the alcohol policy. The North Food Court will offer “walk around beer and wine.” According to Art Association spokesperson Catherine Alexander, if fairgoers wanted to purchase an alcoholic beverage in past years, they were confined to the fenced beer and wine area. The new walk around feature allows for a larger area, where they can also purchase food and listen to music nearer to the stage. The South Food Court will remain alcohol free.

For athletes who want to experience the Fair while in motion, join the 5K Walk or Run for the Arts, happening Saturday at 7:45 a.m. (registration closes at 7:30 a.m.). Runners and walkers will meet on the grass field southeast of McCulloch Stadium, and the race traverses the paths and trails of Bush’s Pasture Park. Winners will receive prizes created by local Salem Art Association artists as well as merchandise donated by the sponsor, Gallagher’s Fitness Resources. Registration costs can include this year’s Art Fair T-shirt; for complete information contact Gallagher’s at (503) 364-4198.

As usual, the food court at the south end of the park provides a plethora of culinary choices, from ice cream and hot dogs to Indian food. On Sunday at 5:15, the closing ceremony and parade, complete with the Oregon State Defense Bagpipe Band, will round out a full weekend of color, beauty, community and art.