Village of Willamette Arts Festival holds seventh run
by: David Plechl,  Visitors walk past paintings and other artwork at the Village of Willamette Arts Festival in West Linn last weekend.

Dogs looked warm in fashionable sweaters. People clutched oversized shopping bags carrying new treasures. Kids used crayons to decorate table clothes. And artists got to debut prized possessions for the public.

West Linn painted a nice backdrop for the seventh annual Village of Willamette Arts Festival, which took place over the weekend in downtown Willamette. Each year the juried festival draws in thousands of art enthusiasts, the curious and those who just like to 'browse.'

And while the festival kept its same charm and colorful camaraderie, this year there were also some changes.

Last year the art booth entrances faced the traffic on Willamette Falls Drive but this year the booths were turned around to face nearby businesses and restaurants - exposing visitors to all that the street has to offer.

'It's opened it up quite a bit. The merchants get the benefit by not having their stores blocked by (the booths),' said Marie Gunton, owner and artist with her photography company Image is Everything.

So, with restaurants and shops in full view, many took to the street in search of something special from any of the 60 artists. And artists shook hands with some familiar faces.

'It's a great venue. The supporting business is what really matters. You've got Lil' Cooperstown, the West Linn Saloon - all these places that are helpful,' said Joe Robinson, who had raku and wood fired pottery at his booth. 'I'm from Lake Oswego so it's really nice because I see people I know.'

Whether it was a first time visit or they were repeat art enthusiasts, the crowd seemed an eclectic mix of young and old - and everyone in between.

'We come every year because we love it,' said Christine Bennett from West Linn, who attended with her sister Kathy Ward from Albany. 'We love the beautiful artwork. Some of this looks like big-time artists.'

And with the look and appeal of 'big-time' artists, many thought the festival was big-time fun - visitors and artists alike.

Willamette Falls Drive received a lot of foot traffic early Saturday morning after the artists from Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah and Washington counties set up for business.

'First off, this morning I sold a brand new piece; it's the first time it was exhibited,' said Gunton. 'Of course I like (the artwork) … but it's really validated when so many people are drawn to it.'

Families, friends and neighbors meandered through the white booths on the outskirts of the street. With a variety of items - jewelry, quilts, stained glass, stone works, purses, birdhouses and more - there seemed something for everyone.

'We love all the crafts, handmade things, the jewelry, garden stuff and photography,' said Wendy Dauenhauer from Estacada. 'We've already got three bags full. We're going home now, we're broke.'

With live bands providing the soundtrack for the event, many wandered between 12th and 14th Streets in search of food, a closer seat to the stage or a gift item.

'(Outdoor festivals) give people better access to art,' said Jan C. Van Dyke, whose booth was filled with sepia-toned photography. 'A lot of folks won't go to a museum or a gallery but they'll come here.'

As bagged popcorn made its way into the mouths of many and artists talked with attendees about their techniques, some visitors also perused nearby boutiques and shops.

'There's a lot more activity, which means a lot more cups of coffee,' said Ruth Wilmarth, owner of Knit-In Café, as she sat with friend Helen Kittredge over a cup of joe. 'It fun to have (the festival) here. I hear a lot of nice comments from people attending.'

After fueling up at nearby Lil' Cooperstown for a brunch/lunch, the Salisbury family - with all four kids in matching shirts - looked at art and the cats in the window at PAWS Animal Shelter.

'What a great day. (We just went to some soccer games and got our face painted. This is really nice,' said Scott Salisbury from West Linn, who attended the festival with his wife Lynn and his children Amy, John, Matthew and Michael. 'We're just strolling around on a nice day and talking with neighbors. We love West Linn.'

For more information or applications for next year's festival, visit the Village of Willamette Arts Festival Web site at

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