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Park Art Fair celebrates 50 years

Steve Meyer and True Heat opened for the Park Art Fair and Willow River Blues and Brews Fest at Mary Park in New Richmond. File photo

The Park Art Fair got its start 50 years ago in Star Prairie, and according to Jill Van Gelder — who grew up in New Richmond and attended the inaugural event — the art fair went by a different name before it moved to New Richmond and was renamed the Park Art Fair

"I think back then it was called the Barn Art Fair, with tents pitched everywhere. Growing up in New Richmond, the stuff that they had at the art fair was not something you would normally see every day," Van Gelder said. "I remember everything being so exotic looking and there were a lot of very interesting people. It was all very intriguing to see, especially as a 12-year-old."

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the local event, the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce plans on pulling out all the stops to celebrate the anniversary, as well as breathe new life into the event, Friday and Saturday June 2-3 in Mary Park.

"We feel like the event, over the last 50 years, has lost its focus. So this year, we are putting the 'art' back into 'art fair' and putting the focus on family fun, entertainment and kids activities, while keeping the elements people have liked, such as brews and blues," said New Richmond Area Chamber Executive Director Rob Kreibich. "All the changes we are making this year will be permanent. They are not just being made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the fair. We are trying to gear the event toward art and family."

With a totally new layout, 30 new artists and an expanded food area — as well as the usual beer and wine tasting — the 50th anniversary of the Park Art Fair & Blues and Brews Fest will attempt to reinvigorate the festival for years to come.

"We hope people will attend the 50th. It has a long history. And even though other shows have died along the way, this one has endured," Kreibich said. "We are hoping people will notice a dramatic change and improvements."

As a way to emphasis the focus on art and family, this year's fair will be the start of new, expanded hours on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The beer and wine tasting will go from 4-6 p.m. to close out the event. Friday night will kick off the event with a sneak peek of the art fair — which allows vendors to open on Friday if they wish — starting at 5 p.m., followed by the Blues and Brews Festival from 7-10 p.m.

"With this being the 50th, we are planning on having family fun scheduled all weekend long," Michelle Scanlan, of the New Richmond Area Chamber said. "We've got basketball teams, tennis teams, St. Croix County K-9, Dance Explosion, the public library and one of the dozen baseball teams. And then one of the vendors will be doing free kids activities with the kids as well.

"Between the free family activities and the affordable food, and the music being free Friday night, it will be a great celebration that the community can really be excited about and not spend a ton of money."

Along with all the family-friendly activities, the fair will also feature around 110 artists from four different states. And that number might go up before the fair opens June 2.

"We are probably at about 110 total artists right now (as of May 16), but there are still calls coming in. And that is everything from fine art painting to blown glass, pottery and stained glass. But it also goes more into the folk art, like refurbished furniture to homemade jams and sauces," Scanlon said. "We also are adding a marketplace this year, which will allow local businesses to highlight their business."

The festival will also feature a number of food vendors, including nonprofits such as the New Richmond Hockey Association, St. Mary School, VFW and American Legion; as well as — for the first time ever — for-profit vendors.

"We've more than doubled the number of food vendors. We prioritize the nonprofits....but for the first time we've opened it up to for-profit vendors," Kreibich said. "We've got a whole array of options that include a mix of things that the nonprofit vendors don't produce. And it is all affordably priced so you can enjoy a weekend without breaking the bank."

The reason why the chamber opened the event up to for-profits, according to Kreibich, is because they were seeing more and more nonprofit food vendors drop out because they couldn't find volunteers.

The chamber is also working on setting up five-minute tethered hot air balloon rides for the fair, but the rides will be dependent on the weather being nice the weekend of the event. The fair will also have ATMs on the grounds this year.

"Adults and kids will have the opportunity to make paintings during the Park Art Fair," Scanlon said. "And then Taylor Berman, who did all the art on main street, will be making an 8-by-12-foot mural during the event that kids will have an opportunity to make a piece that will be attached to the mural. That will all be free."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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