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Festival in the Forest

Thousands turn out for fourth annual arts festival at Mary S. Young Park
by: Vern Uyetake, Alicia Doerrie of West Linn and a member of the A-WOL aerial dance collective hangs from the trees during a performance on Saturday afternoon.

Children seemed to pop out of the trees on Saturday afternoon, as kiddies scurried around the fourth annual Arts Festival in the Forest held at Mary S. Young Park in West Linn.

The event took place Saturday and Sunday, with close to 3,000 attendees, similar to last year's event. The festival is a fundraiser for the West Linn Arts Commission.

This year, 69 juried artists each gave a piece of art to a silent auction, generating approximately $1,500 for the commission.

Ten to 20 feet above the tents and auction area, members of the A-WOL aerial dance collective hung with their legs wrapped around beige elastic curtains.

These curtains were tied to wires strapped to trees, from which the dancers contorted their bodies into Circque du Soleil-type positions.

'We have been trying to make it unique,' said Veronica Swehla, a co-organizer of the show as she sipped from a beverage and lifted her eyes to watch the teenagers defy gravity.

As she said this, Adam the Great, with shaved head, goatee and snazzy suit, popped out from behind a tree to pull multi-colored ribbons out of onlooker's sleeves.

He amazed crowds by using visual illusions to stick his finger through shirts and his deck-o-cards abilities.

Not far from where a crowd had gathered for Adam's antics, Kali Basi, a Washington resident, sold another piece of embroidered Italian cloth from her booth.

She stitches in 35 or more Italian imported silks to form soft vivid scarfs for chic winter attire.

'I always try to do things that are different,' Basi said.

Close by, self-taught artist Anya Coxworth was having no trouble, pulling amazing spectral kaleidoscopes out of her mind and onto paper, painting from themes that could give movie-maker Tim Burton some ideas. The seemingly divergent themes developed as if taken off the texts of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

'I lived in New Orleans for three years, so much of it comes from that old side show scene,' Coxworth said.

She used to be a full-time waitress until she got her big break in Portland at the First Thursday art event.

'Now I am a part-time waitress, full-time painter,' she said.

While crowd's voices rose into the thick groves, sunlight poured between leaves and branches, dancing against silver chimes in a nearby booth that tingled in the breeze.

'You are in nature, and someone will look at a painting, then look up and say, 'look at the yellows in the tree and leaves,'' said Rudy Stewart, an artist and teacher of watercolor at Mount Hood Community College.

Looking at a passing man's shirt Stewart blurted out his thoughts: 'It's just a cataclysm of color.'

Stewart is revered by organizers and artists of the Arts Festival in the Forest as an artist adviser and exceptional artist.

'You look for what color is emotional to you,' Stewart said. 'I don't teach an artist what to paint or how, but what made you take that photo and its focal point.'

'You take what you see in nature and exaggerate it,' he said.

One more notable exaggeration was in the vocal shrills and musical skills of the Vagabond Opera.

Lungs bursting, accordians heaving and singer Eric Stern's greased silky moustache helped the band harmonize into the spectacle.

Stern sang Russian while Lesley Kernochan rocked a saxaphone, her flaming red hair, vine face paint curling down her temples and quick fair-skinned fingers dazzling the crowd.

'They make me cry,' said Swehla with a teary-eyed smile.