Times are changing but Victorian Art Fair pushes on


WEST BRANCH — Irons Park in West Branch will again be transformed Aug. 11-12 into an artisan paradise for the 39th year, despite a continually growing internet age.

“The whole industry is changing,” art fair Chairwoman Marcia Young said. “I don’t know how soon, but in the future we are looking at this becoming a thing of the past, simply because a lot of the older people that are doing the arts and crafts to supplement their income are not doing it as much.”

Young said many of the vendors at the art fair are older than 50 and slowly the art fair is losing longtime exhibitors.

“We are seeing those numbers dwindle,” she said. “We are down about 25 exhibitors this year.”

Young believes part of the cause is the increased popularity of online markets such as Etsy, where younger artisans are focused.

“This is a trend and they are seeing the same trend at other fairs as well,” she said. “A lot of the younger people are selling it online, selling it on Etsy and not hauling their stuff to fairs.”

Despite the challenges, Young said it isn’t the end of the road for the art fair.

“We have been very fortunate to still continue to draw a good crowd, whether it rains or shines,” she said. “We aren’t ready to throw in the towel. I have made my organization aware that this can happen and we need to look to the future.”

Young said an integral element of the art fair’s continuation will fall on the community and its members’ willingness to step forward and help mold it for the future.

The art fair’s economic significance for the city of West Branch is evident during the weekend with the increased traffic at area businesses, she said.

Young said the event wouldn’t be possible without the support of its group of volunteers.

“Each year we hope that all those wheels keep working,” she said. “If one of those cogs falls off we are in trouble.”

More than 150 vendors will exhibit their vast array of arts and crafts around the park with products ranging from furniture, jewelry and the growing trend of metal art.

Young said the variety is one of her favorite parts.

“I love to see all of the different things that people have created,” she said. “Even when we are doing the jurying it is fun to see the different things people have created.”

In addition to the plethora of vendors and exhibitors, the art fair features events like the annual Optimist Club frog race, a teddy bear picnic hosted by the West Branch District Library and a cherry pit spitting contest.

Due to the typically large attendance and the limited parking at the park, the art fair offers attendees free shuttle services from Plaza East, the former Kmart parking lot, downtown West Branch and Fourth Street Gift Shop and Gallery.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, and is free to attend. Because of the large crowds, attendees are asked to leave their pets at home.

For more information about the event or to inquire about getting involved, contact the art association at 989-345-1451.


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