Thousands are expected to descend on downtown Bigfork this weekend for the 40th annual Bigfork Festival of the Arts on Aug. 4 and 5. Nearly 150 juried artists from Montana and across the country will display their wares on Grand and Electric Avenues along with Bridge Street for the two-day affair. Everything from antlers and knives to fine jewelry and pottery will be on display, along with a varied food court and climbing wall to keep guests entertained throughout the day. Live music will be provided both days by Ashley Creek Ramblers, Leftover Biscuits and Dan Dubuque, among others.
Entry to the festival is free and the public is advised to park at the field near the intersection of Highways 82 and 35. Harlow Transportation will operate two shuttles on a continuous loop throughout the day, taking visitors to and from the event.
The festival got its start in 1978 thanks to a group of downtown Bigfork business owners.
“They wanted to do a festival, so they got a little one together and it had hay bales and all that stuff and it just kind of went from there,” said festival co-chair Donna Lawson. “They noticed that it was a good way to bring people into Bigfork.”
Proceeds from the festival, taken from booth fees, will help fund the marketing efforts of the Bigfork Chamber of Commerce.
Lawson is expecting a crowd of between 5,000-6,000 for the event and noted that a classic boat show is also running this weekend at Marina Cay Resort, which could help draw even more folks to the area. The Big Sky Classic and Antique Boat Show will take place Aug. 3-5 with an evening reception Friday and boat viewing starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.bigskyacbs.com.
Thirty percent of this year’s artists are new to the festival, Lawson said, thanks in part to the chamber’s usage of an online artist application, ZAPPlication, which has allowed organizers to reach a wider pool of talent than in years past.
“I think the quality of art has gotten better every year,” she said. ‘When I first started doing it, it was Barbie doll clothes, and they had these PVC pipes that could shoot marshmallows … we don’t have that anymore.”
But Lawson’s time at the helm of the festival will come to an end after this year’s event. She and co-chair Gretchen Gates are turning the reins over to Bigfork Chamber President, Janine Beaubien and and past president, Shannon Bagley.
Looking back on all her years of service, Lawson said what stands out most are the relationships she’s developed with artists and vendors over the years.
“I enjoy the people. I’ve created a lot of good relationships with them and we get hugs when they come back,” Lawson said. “We have a lot of vendors that come back and do this year after year. I think that’s the best part — along with the shopping.”
Reporter Mackenzie Reiss may be reached at 758-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.