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Front Page » August 19, 2004 » Advocate Artist's Showcase » Ten years in the making
Published 4,028 days ago

Ten years in the making

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Sun Advocate community editor

The Helper Art Festival encompasses many kinds of festivities on Main Street for three days. Public events begin on Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. with bands in the Main Street Park and the Children's Art Festival in the Helper Auditorium.

When the Helper Arts Festival began in the fall 10 years ago no one knew for sure where it was headed.

Some in the county had high hopes for the resurrection of Helper as an art destination, and consequently an ever growing yearly festival.

Others thought it would be a flash in the pan, lasting a couple of years at best.

But here it is, 10 years later and the festival has had it great years and it's not so good years. It has had years where the weather was hot and sunny and others when it was cool and wet. Some art vendors have spent many years on the streets of late August and early September, watching the crowds grow big, then small, then big again.

Like all events the Helper Art Festival has been at the mercy of many things; the economy, the competition on the weekend it is held and of course the weather.

"We are hoping for great weather this year," says Sherill Shaw, this years Helper Art Festival Director. "We thought it went great last year, except for the night everything got rained out and the second night when the Saliva Sisters finished their program and then it began to rain."

This festival is definitely dependent on those summer thunderstorms, or should it be said on the lack of them.

The weather at this point is predicted to be just about right by the time outside public events begin to happen on Friday afternoon. Highs in the 80's and no rain. But one can never tell.

Up until a few years ago the festival was held in September, but two years of big rains drove the committee members at the time to move it back into August, usually the weekend before school starts. This year however, it is scheduled to start the weekend after school starts.

"The county fair ran through this past weekend," says Shaw. "So we had to move it to the weekend after. We don't want to compete with each other in the county, but to help each other out."

The children's art yard is a popular event.

Besides the change in weekends there is a lot more that will change this year. New venues and and striking Sunday entertainment head up those differences. But first, and foremost, tradition is still an important part of the festival.

As usual it will be held on Main Street with that street being closed to motorized traffic on Friday at noon and not opened again until Sunday afternoon.

"But this year we are going to have more space to work with," says the director. "Instead of closing Main Street on the south end of town to only Ivy Street, we will be closing it to Poplar Street. That will bring the Rio Theater as well as the museum more into the fold of the festival."

The first real event will begin at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday morning as artists will stream into town to enter the Plein Air Competition. This is the fourth year of that event and it has grown larger and larger with each session. Last year Steven Larson's "Steamboat Mountain" won top honors.

Plein Air means outdoor painting but this competition has more of a twist to it than that. The painting must be original for this competition, and that is guaranteed because the artists bring their medium to the check in and it has to be marked so that officials know it was painted during the competition and not before. Art work is due before 6:00 p.m. on Friday night. Then it is displayed on Saturday and Sunday with winners being announced Sunday afternoon.

Later that morning the town will be filled with writers as the first annual Helper Literary Fest Competition will begin. Writers who want to be in the contest will register at the Rio Theater between 10:00 a.m. and noon. Between noon and 1:00 p.m. a meeting will be held for all writers, and they will be assigned a topic for each category on which to write. The categories for this years competition are short story and poetry. There is also a youth competition (under 14 years of age) in the same categories.

Writing by the authors will commence around 1:00 p.m. and they have exactly 24 hours in which to turn in their work. Finalists will read their produced works on Sunday morning and right after those presentations, the winners will be announced.

Another special art feature is the Childrens Art Competition which will be displayed in the Helper Auditorium at 19 South Main. Young artists from schools all over Carbon and Emery Counties will be displayed with awards given. This work was submitted before the last school year ended.

On the way to the Helper Auditorium, festival attendees can take their own shot at art immortality by trying out their skills on the "Chalk Walk" another new feature this year. The festival will provide the chalk and attendees can provide the talent.

Speaking of kids art, the festival also offers a Childrens Art Yard which is located right across from City Hall in the Farmers Market area. All kinds of fun things go on there including face painting, crafts, water colors, rock art, head bands/visors, and this year there will be the opportunity to "paint a Pinto" and design car art.

The entertainment at the Helper Arts Festival this year will encompass many kinds of music, everything from Rock and country to jazz. Bands begin playing in the Main Street Park at 4:00 p.m. and wind up late on Sunday afternoon. Many local bands are included in the entertainment, interspersed with out-of-area talent.

Of specific note are Lisa Marie and the Co-Dependents on Saturday night and the Saliva Sisters, always a popular attraction, this year on Sunday afternoon.

Local singer and guitar player Charley Simmons will be appearing on Saturday evening.

On the Main Street stage, which will be located by the Helper Railroad and Mining Museum, the venue on Saturday will include a lot of local talent including dancers, singers and bands.

The Rio Theater, 210 South Main, will be the site of a Readers Theater on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. Sign up slots are still available for anyone wishing to read their own work, whether it be poetry, short stories, essays or even portions of novels. The day will be highlighted when well known Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby addresses those in the theater at 2:00 p.m.

On Sunday the Rio Theater will feature the top five finalists in the Literary Competition. That includes the top entries from the short story and poetry competitions, in both the adult and youth categories. The winners of the competition will be announced at around 12:15 p.m. that same day.

The streets will be filled with vendors for all three days of the event. The art being sold will include leather work, rock art, 3D art, watercolors, oils, pottery, ceramics, photography, pastels and metal art. Over 60 vendors are slated for Main street.

Around the Main Street park will be the food vendors who will sell many kinds of food including Hawaiian, Greek, Navajo Tacos, funnel cakes, BBQ, cotton candy and much more.

For the adults, the beer garden will also be another feature that is always popular.

As visitors to the Helper Arts Festival patrol the streets they should also take note of the many merchants on the street that will be open including art displays with paintings, glass art and sculptures.

Also featured along the route are antique shops and if the food in the park isn't enough for you there are also the restaurants on Main Street that can treat your tummy.

Those going up and down Main Street can get a look at the Plein Air Gallery, 129 South Main, where artists who are competing for the prize money in that event will be displaying their work. Gallery goers can also vote in the People's Choice Award by voting for their favorite work of art from the competition. The winners of the awards will be announced at 2:00 pm on Sunday.

Many other activities will be taking place from Thursday through Sunday, but most of all the events will not only highlight artists from near and far, but will bring the people of the area together for a final celebration of summer and culture.

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August 19, 2004
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