Art in the Park celebrates 30 years

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Art in the Park turns 30 this weekend.

Lots of things have changed since 1974.

The popular arts and crafts festival moved back and forth from the courthouse lawn to Little Toots Park before landing at its current home in West Lincoln Park.

The Steamboat Springs Arts Council no longer lures visitors with the once-risque poster of a cowboy in pink ballet shoes. Now, the scenic Balloon Rodeo is the weekend's signature image because the arts council joined event-planning forces with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association almost two decades ago.

And there are so many talented local entertainers in town that there's no longer any reason to look for outside talent to fill the festival's jam-packed live entertainment bill, arts council Executive Director Nancy Kramer said.

Entering its third decade, Art in the Park is just getting bigger and better, event organizer Jayne Austin said.

"We've notched up the quality. We're really committed, and every year, we're tested on this to make sure these are handcrafted creations," Kramer said.

Art in the Park features 128 artists this year. Each will display handmade arts and crafts in diverse mediums including wood, metal, clay, leather, fiber, glass, jewelry, fine art and photography. While longtime favorites such as found-art sculptor Malen Pierson are returning once again, 50 of this year's artists are new to Art in the Park.

This is a unique arts festival because it's on grass, Kramer pointed out. But Art in the Park's natural setting along the Yampa River in West Lincoln Park has created some memorable predicaments throughout the years, she said. Windstorms, rain and grasshoppers have been known to come into play on a few rare occasions.

"We've gone fishing in the pond for tents several times. Call it an added adventure," Kramer said.

During 30 years of festivals, something had to go awry, but the true spirit of this arts and crafts festival is its sense of community, Kramer said. Everyone pitches in to help each other out at Art in the Park, she said.

Sixteen live performances, including all types of music, belly dancers, jugglers and West African dancers will grace the main stage in front of the park's wooden steamboat during the two-day festival.

"We have such a great capacity in this town to feature local entertainers. That's the treat," Kramer said.

When it's time for an arts and crafts shopping break, there's plenty of room to sit back, have a snack and listen to some cool jazz or foot-stompin' bluegrass. With myriad food vendors on hand, there will be everything from smoked turkey legs to spanikopita, with fresh squeezed lemonade or beer to wash it down.

A large nonprofit area will feature the Yampa Valley Flyfishers, braiding and face painting by the Oak Street Performing Arts Company, a bark beetle and fire safety exhibit by Yampatika and the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Raptors and RDOGS, a group that is raising money and awareness for a Steamboat dog park.

The Humane Society will have their decorated fiberglass dogs on display, too, but no real dogs are allowed at Art in the Park this weekend.

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