ESCANABA — The Waterfront Art Festival will return to Ludington Park today for 50 years.
Acting as one of the largest arts festivals in the area, the event gives local artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell their creative works.
All media, including paintings, ceramics and handmade jewelry, will be represented today from 10 am to 4 pm. The event is free and open to the public.
“Just about anything you can think of that would be in an art exhibit will be in the festival,” Paula Jordan, events coordinator at the Bonifas Arts Center, said.
The festival is a big event for the Upper Peninsula, attracting art enthusiasts from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Lower Michigan who are interested in supporting local artists. The 40 artists currently registered for the event come from various places in the region.
While some artists travel from Northern Wisconsin and Lower Michigan to show their art, approximately 95% of registered artists are located in UP. In the past, the event has welcomed more than 4,000 attendees, and the figure is expected to be just as high this year.
“Sometimes people who are just traveling through the area see there’s a festival going on and just stop by,” Jordan said. “We’ve had people come from all over to attend.”
As a juried art show, vendors who wanted to attend the festival had to submit an application and a sample of their work before being admitted. Artists had to meet certain criteria to qualify, which set the Waterfront Art Festival apart from your run-of-the-mill craft show.
Considered a more professional environment, a jury of three to five people critiqued all submitted work and determined whether it was of the quality that the Waterfront Art Festival is known for.
“If it is the first year of an artist, then they have to be juries”, Jordan said. “If they were at Waterfront 2021 or Waterfront 2019, they don’t need to be judges on the show.”
Most of the artists will be placed in a “The best of the show” competition for their specific artistic medium. For example, all submitted glassware will compete against each other to see which one is the best.
After the judges select the Best of Show for each specific medium, the winners will be entered to win the Waterfront Art Festival Best of Show, or the event’s grand prize.
This pits the best pieces from each individual category against each other, forcing the judges to make a tough decision based on originality, quality, craftsmanship and many other unique criteria.
Additionally, there will be art raffle shops containing prints, wood carvings, and other handcrafted pieces throughout the park. After purchasing tickets and entering a name and address, attendees can select which artwork they would like to win by placing their tickets in the appropriate jars.
“You could win some yarn because we have a local artist who dyes her own yarn in all the different colors, so she has some great stuff.” Jordan said. “All that has been done [at the festival] you can get to the art raffle tent.”
Young artists will also have the opportunity to exhibit and sell their work, with the Young Artists Market returning to the Waterfront Art Festival this year. The market has reached its maximum capacity of 20 vendors, all of whom have spent their summer vacations creating art to sell. From hand-woven blankets to intricate earrings and even bat houses, the market will be a first for many of these children when it comes to selling their wares.
“[The Young Artists’ Market] gives children the opportunity to put their entrepreneurial skills to the test,” Jordan said. “They will be selling, learning how to price their items and make new products,”
Children not participating in the Young Artists Market have the opportunity to participate in the youth activity tent, where they can create their own artwork to take home.
Festival goers are encouraged to peruse the diverse selection of creative works and chat with local artists about their style, methods and inspirations when creating.
Various food vendors will be stationed in Ludington Park during festival hours, along with live entertainment and music from the Karas Bandshell.
“[Attendees] you can expect vendors of old and new artists. Some of them come back year after year.” Jordan said. “When it comes to the public, Yoopers specifically, they can look forward to seeing the returning artists and friends because this may be the only time they get to see them.”