The historic Heritage Hill district saw a frenzy of activity on Sunday as regional artists scrambled to pack their artwork and make last-minute sales before a forecast storm arrived.
The Snake Alley Art Fair was slated to run until 4 p.m., but a storm brewing over Keosauqua prompted the Des Moines County Community Emergency Response Team to call for an early end of Event Four. hours earlier.
It was the first time in its 54-year history to be cut short by inclement weather.
âThis is the first time that I have to close in the middle,â said Tammy McCoy, director of the Art Center of Burlington, which coordinates the art fair each year. “It’s just a huge disappointment, but we would prefer everyone to be safe and not taking risks.”
McCoy, however, was happy with the turnout.
âWe had a great turnout for the part that people were here for,â she said. “People really supported me and I really appreciated that.”
She wasn’t the only one. The pandemic prompted the Snake Alley Art Fair to be held virtually last year and canceled other in-person art events, making it a relatively quiet year for artists.
Illustrator and painter Kelsey Wilson of Nevada, Iowa, is a seven-year-old freelance writer whose work consists largely of illustrations from children’s books, animals, and botanicals. She had tried to supplement the income she usually earns at live events with online sales, but was not very lucky.
âMost of the time it was really, really quiet,â she said.
This was Wilson’s first time attending the Snake Alley Art Fair, and despite the untimely ending that cut short her live painting demonstration, she was glad she came. Within hours of the event, she sold four or five of her original paintings, as well as many prints and greeting cards.
âIt was a pretty good day,â said Nelson. “I achieved my goal, and this is what I needed.”
As other stalls were dismantled and valuable pieces were safely stowed away, Jerry and Jacque Crable of Uniquely Yours Metals tended to have a small number of customers still browsing the inventory they were working to load.
The Burlington couple have long been participating in the art fair. Jacque Crable was selling clay figurines there in the mid-1990s when her husband, who works at Modern Welding, noticed someone wearing angels and flowers carved out of wood.
“He said, ‘You know I could do that with metal,’ so he went home and took one of my irises from the flower garden, put it in a soda bottle on his workbench and worked with until he got it right, “Jacque Crable said.” And that’s how we started. “
Since then, the two have worked together to grow their inventory and business. Jerry Crable works the metal and Jacque Crable takes care of the powder coating.
âWe work as a team,â said Jerry Crable. “That’s what makes him fun.”
The Crables, with the help of their daughter, Dana, typically attend 13 art fairs each year, but only attended eight last year due to COVID-19 cancellations.
âThey’ve been preparing all winter and during the pandemic for this and other shows,â Dana Crable said.
Even still, they are struggling to keep up with demand.
“We can’t keep up with this year. Every show has been a deadly show,” said Jacque Crable, attributing the increased sales to the pandemic. “I think people work in their garden more from home and don’t travel, and so they do their garden work, and when they see things and they see the quality, they are like ‘hey’ and that has been great for us. But that’s about the only good thing about COVID. “
The couple create larger garden sculptures as well as wind chimes, angels, and flowers such as irises, roses and lilies. They also offer their own floral designs, such as the tuly and the Crabblossom, named after the Crables.
âEvery year we have to try to come up with a new one or two, because the people who bought us keep coming back,â said Jacque Crable. âWe have a lot of followers. People keep coming back to us because our flowers last a long time and they never rust. We try to sell what we would buy, and that’s how we see it. “
Dave Klockau was drawn to the Uniquely Yours booth by a wind chime and a turtle sculpture. The Rock Island, Ill. Native and Iowa City resident was happy to be back in Burlington and excited about the downtown resurgence.
He and his wife, Lori, from Burlington, come to Snake Alley for the art fair every year (except last year as it was online).
âI’m really happy to see Burlington making a comeback, especially downtown,â said Klockau. âWe come here every Father’s Day. We love downtown and are happy to see the resurgence of restaurants in particular. The only thing that disappoints me today is that Weird Harold’s is closed (Sundays). “
He gave a nod to the Burlington music scene, which was also featured at the art fair earlier today with the musical styles of various groups and solo artists.
The return of the Snake Alley Art Fair in person was a welcome sight for attendees. Even when the rain started to fall and the performers dispersed with their wares, small groups of people continued to get out of their cars and head towards Snake Alley, hoping to catch some of the performers beforehand. their departure.