As a kid I always got giddy when the county fair came to town. Who didn’t? Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, calliope music, cotton candy smells, bright colored lights… what could be more enticing and exciting?
Now that even the merry-go-round makes me dizzy and nauseous, I have a new kind of fair that gets me giddy as a kid with a free pass to all the rides. Our fabulous fall arts & crafts fair: Bloomington, Indiana’s Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts… all the dazzle; none of the nausea! And this arts & crafts fair is far from new.
It was born in 1977 from the creative vision of area artists and crafts people to provide a showcase for Southern Indiana’s diverse arts and crafts talent, of which we have no shortage! Within its 33 years of evolution, Fourth Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts has expanded to include juried artisans from all over the country. It was recently rated in Art Fair SourceBook as one of the top 50 arts fairs in the country.
Fourth Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts turns East 4th Street, beginning near the border of IU’s campus, into a 2-day end-of-summer celebration of creative energy. First picture the backdrop. East 4th St. bridges Bloomington’s re-vamped charming old downtown on the courthouse square a few blocks to the west, on east to Indiana University’s gorgeous limestone and tree-laden campus. IU is listed as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.
So stroll down E. 4th St. sheltered most of the way by lovely old shade trees on both sides. It’s obvious this was long ago a comfortable residential neighborhood. Elegant Victorian homes and other large restored older homes line both sides of E. 4th St. Many are updated in vivid colors and added accents. Nearly all have converted to restaurants. Each one calls to us with alluring exotic food scents from a wide array of cultures, many representing the diversity IU brings to Bloomington. Walk along E. 4th St. on Labor Day weekend, and behind the artist’s white tents along the street, you’ll see:
Siam House / Puccini’s La Dolce Vita / Basil Leaf Vietnamese Bistro /Anatolia /
International Market / Mandalay Burmese Cuisine / Ashenda Ethiopian Restaurant / Amol India / My Thai (replacing Casablanca) and across S. Grant is Taste of India
Standing at 4th & Grant to the south you see
Dat’s Cajun Creole café
And if you turn to the north on Grant, you can walk over to
Snow Lion Tibetan & Oriental Cuisine or cross the street to
Soma Coffee House in the downstairs of that lovely old limestone building. Upstairs is Laughing Planet with its large shady patio & relaxed art-full & fanciful décor inside.
Laughing Planet is hard to label. They have local organic foods, and are known for their enormous healthy burritos, for one, and plenty to offer vegetarians.
Maybe it’s just this reporter, and maybe I’m hungry, but you can’t think Fourth Street Festival without taking in the ambiance of the old neighborhood and all those multi-cultural restaurants housed in stately old homes that provide this arts & crafts fair its inviting back drop. I guarantee you’ll get hungry! And that’s on an ordinary day.
WHAT ABOUT THE ARTS AND CRAFTS?
When the Fourth Street Festival opens on Labor Day Weekend, 4th Street explodes with color. Every tent holds something conceived in the mind of its creator and brought into the dimensional world through love, sweat, frustration, patience and an insistent vision. We find wonders carved in wood or metal, formed by hands & fired in kilns, splashed or delicately drawn on canvas, woven in cloth, blown in glass, found in a photographer’s discerning eye, even grown in a garden & carved in a gourd. The urge to run my hands over the smooth polished wood or hold a unique piece of jewelry to study its intricacies, or get lost in the vastness of an enhanced space photograph or wrap myself in the swirling colors of silk scarves is overwhelming. And just try not to break into delighted laughter over the whimsy of a giant stained glass chicken! It’s a grand feast for the senses.
But it isn’t just your olfactory, tactile & visual senses being stimulated. Take in the on-going music around the corner on Grant. It’s all part of the Fourth St. Festival. Changing through out the 2 days of the arts & crafts fair we’re treated to jazz, folk, blues, classical, quality musicians from all around here and…. DANCERS!
Ok, so I’m a dance fanatic. Every year I make sure to come when one of the belly dance troupes takes the street and wakes up my inner dancer like an old lifer at reveille. The body may not want to shake it up, but the soul of the dancer just won’t quit! I am mesmerized by the energy these dancers exude. Women of varying shapes and ages, arms like snakes, hips rolling, skirts & scarves swirling, shake everything they own with astonishing grace and abandon. I love how they connect with each other and invariably seem to be having the time of their lives. At the end they always invite (sometimes drag) people to come join them and let their energetic inner dancer play. Yes, this reporter isn’t hard to lure. But her body poops out long before her spirit and staggers breathless to a chair while the music still taunts. I feel like the kid whose mom makes her come inside to nap while all the other kids are still out there playing. Waaahhh!
Oh, but now maybe you’ll see the sky-high guy on stilts go by. (Is someone channeling Dr. Seuss in here?) Yes, there are often people on stilts, an occasional gentle clown (not scary … really!), jugglers, and I swear, I recall a fire-eater one year. If you just like people-watching or dog-watching, this is an event for you! That’s my granddaughter’s favorite part of the Fourth Street Festival… getting to pet the dogs! (But only after asking their human.)
As if that isn’t enough for the kids, or the kid in you, Fourth Street Festival always provides a booth for children to get hands-on in the creation of some form of art. This year Wonderlab is joining the Fourth Street Festival to explore the relationship between art and science. Kids will have a chance to be involved in the creation of huge colorful banners that will be used in decorating this event in years to come. And to demonstrate a secret scientific principle (well, I don’t know it, so it’s “secret”), anyone can create their own no-mess tie-dye banner to take home. This I have to see!
As you walk along Grant toward E. 5th, known here as Kirkwood, you have the opportunity to get information at the Community Booths, sometimes with freebies. Just to mention a random few, there will be booths for Friends of Art, Windfall Dancers, WFIU Radio, IU Children’s Choir, Women Writing for a Change, Brown County Playhouse, Blgtn Symphony Orchestra, Jazz from Blgtn, Lotus World Music Festival, Rhino’s All Ages Music Club, and I apologize for leaving out so many vital local arts-related organizations that will be represented at Fourth Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts.
And as you pass these inviting booths, you’ll be treated to musicians & artists not officially involved in the Fourth Street Festival, but not lacking in talent. IU has a world class school of music which spawns young musicians practicing their craft on the streets, violin or classical guitar case open to offerings. Oh, and occasional bagpipes. They’re good, though! But they’re not all from IU. Bloomington is a little music oasis. Ever heard of John Mellencamp or Joshua Bell? Local boys.
WHEN IS THE 2010 FOURTH STREET FESTIVAL?
This year on Labor Day Weekend, Fourth Street Festival is
SAT SEPT 4th 10 AM – 6 PM and SUN SEPT 5TH 10 AM – 5 PM
If you come and you spot a short granny shaking her boney bottom with the belly dancers or fondling the arts & crafts under the skeptical eye of the artisans while she oohs and aahs in awe, obviously high on breathing so much creative energy too fast, you’ve probably found me. If not, I want to meet that cool old lady. She sounds like a lot of fun!