Arts in These Parts

Third Makers Festival a Charmed Occasion

By VICTORIA FORD | Sep 20, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Makers morning. With the sun just rising, a light mist clings to the ground at Manahawkin Lake Park, where hundreds of sleepy-faced peddlers clutching coffee cups are piling out of vehicles bearing all kinds of racks on their roofs, ready to unload and set up for the strolling, browsing and shopping guests who would start arriving before 10 a.m.

Neighboring vendors greet each other warmly and remark on the weather (“Really lucked out, didn’t we?”), borrow a surge protector, or run errands (“Need anything from the real world? I gotta go get baby hangers,” Jessie Wolf Temple offered as she hurried off-premises). Volunteers lend hands with uncooperative tents or tables and, by 9 a.m., a small city has been erected.

At about 9:45 a quick, informative vendors’ powwow and group photo happen at the bandstand. The earliest birds are already hunting for worms, and the shopkeepers are warming up their sales pitches.

With 153 vendors and 27 hardworking volunteers, the third annual Makers Festival had an established, confident feel. Main organizers Jeannine Errico, Erin Buterick and Dani Corso (The MakeShift Union) had battled illness or barely slept but brought their best and most grateful selves to the day, the culmination of a year’s worth of work. Planning for the fourth annual event begins this week, Corso said, as the festival “continues to fulfill our wildest dreams.”

Integral to the event’s success, Corso continued, are the talents of the Creative Team (Dawn Simon, Brie Fagan and Jessie Temple), the unyielding encouragement from the organizers’ husbands (Chris Errico, Paul Buterick and Kyle Baddorf) and the help of the “small but dedicated group” of volunteers.

As it always does, the day picked up a momentum that carried through the afternoon. Families and groups of friends came to get an early start on holiday shopping or simply to expand their art collections. Many took advantage of hands-on activities such as yoga, face painting and flower crowns. Plenty of others took in the sights while socializing their dogs. Many just wanted to relax in the sun, swing in the shade, eat chowder or pulled pork (or ice cream or doughnuts from Side Door or other goodies from a dozen eateries including Sunny Rae’s Kitchen and the brand new Pickt), or convene in the beer garden with selections from five breweries. By 3 or 4 p.m. the energy began to wind down, and the focus seemed to shift more toward the beer and music.

Cathleen Engelsen, a Surf City resident and award-winning painter of historical landmarks and coastal scenes, was invited to do a live, interactive painting demonstration. She had a prime spot on the intersection where the black path winds down toward the pavilion or around toward the little bridge. She has done collaborative pieces with the public on a couple of other occasions, she said – one that was hung at Scojo’s in Surf City even sold for $800. The interactive element, whether with kids or adults, is one she really enjoys, she said. “Their faces are so happy, and it makes me happy.”

Her painting engaged passersby. Many stopped to watch her work on the lake scene with the pavilion placed prominently in the foreground; several declined to help, too afraid to “mess it up”; and a few brave souls accepted her invitation to add a few brush strokes.

The multifaceted joy of The Makers Festival lies in the personal experience of each and every participant and attendee. At its heart the event is a celebration of one-of-a-kind works of art, handcrafted and vintage treasures and locally made products for body and home. But the bigger picture is made up of the countless handshakes and hugs, reunions of old friends and initial meetings, learning and discovery, connections and conversations. It’s the giggles and shrieks of kids spilling out of hammocks. It’s the shared mission of making the world a friendlier and more beautiful place.

“I was in awe of all of the makers,” Jeannine Errico said, referring specifically to the apparent time and energy invested in the work and the creativity of the displays. “It was truly inspiring. I wish I had more time to spend with each and every one of them.”

Artist Kristin Myers of Surf City, for one, loves the dog-friendly aspect and that she can have her “best art mascot,” Dagmar, there with her. “I fell in love every time a new dog walked by my tent,” she said.

Myers believes the passion of the coordinators and makers – the realness – is what makes the event so enjoyable. “I loved being a part of such a creative experience within the community,” she said. “It’s been really cool to see how the event has grown from the first year. I’ve participated in every one and will definitely sign up again for next year. It’s an amazing experience that makes all the long hours of prep, sleepless nights and stress totally worthwhile.”

Adele McKenna, the creative mind behind Honeyguts Art, has been involved in all three festivals – the first year as a server for Schwee Tea and the second and third years as an independent art vendor.

“It really is a day I look forward to all year long. It’s great to see so many familiar faces and to be around so much creative energy in one place.” She loves the positive vibes, the overall growth of the event, the endurance of the founders’ vision and the sustainability principle.

“Every year it just keeps getting better,” according to three-time vendor Darryl Haley of Metal Elementz, steel art and sculptures, based in Waretown. “The load-in/load-out this year went so smooth, and setup was a breeze. We have absolutely no complaints. We’ve met so many terrific people,” he said, naming the organizers, the “amazingly talented makers who inspire us to create new pieces of art every day, and the new and old clients that come out to see our work who have been following us online all year. We feel very fortunate to be a part of this artistic community, this event, The Union Market and the dozens of stores that carry our artwork here in Ocean County.”

Erin Buterick agreed, “Start to finish, everything ran as smoothly as I could have hoped.

“The most stressful part of the day is vendor load-in, but once that’s over, I can breathe a little easier. I thoroughly enjoyed walking the grounds to see the festival from the point of view of a guest. I tried to take as many mental snapshots of the day as possible.”

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