ST. GEORGE. — Despite recent tragic events, the 5th Annual Art in the Park/Taste of Dixie Festival went on as planned Saturday in Vernon Worthen Park. There were artworks, food, music, plenty of smiling faces — and American flags in abundance.
The Pioneer Center for the Arts Foundation, a non-profit organization that established the St. George Art Museum, has sponsored the event in mid-September each year since 1998. "It's a fine-art show," said Art in the Park/Taste of Dixie chair Carol Lakin. "That's our theme and goal, to promote fine arts." The event featured 67 local artists, 20 percent more than the previous year.
Lakin said the foundation never considered canceling the festival.
"It's reaffirming to me to see that with the tragedy that's gone on in our country, art heals the soul and people come out to see the beauty of it all," Lakin said. Referring to the many American flags and T-shirts with patriotic themes in evidence, she added. "You see demonstrations of patriotism throughout the park, and I think it's wonderful."
Potter Janet Prentice, of Zion Canyon Raku, whose Japanese-style pottery sells worldwide through E-Bay and other venues, lost several artist acquaintances in the World Trade Center attack. She said that although it was still difficult for her to talk about the tragic happenings, she was happy to see people out enjoying the weekend.
"I give people credit for coming out, to try to bring some normalcy back during a stressful time."
About a dozen restaurants offered food booths with a variety of culinary fare. For a few bucks, festivalgoers could sample dishes ranging from the exotic (fish satay) to the comfortingly familiar (apple crisp and peach cobbler).
A special children's event called "Art Attack" gave kids the chance to make their own masterpieces. Budding young Picassos could experiment with pastels, wire sculpture, jewelry making, mural painting, and scratch art, a technique that simulates stained glass.
Live musical entertainment provided accompaniment for festival browsing. The Southwest Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the St. George Musical Theatre, among others, serenaded crowds throughout the day.
Photographer and artist Mark Weiler, partner in the Firmage & Weiler Gallery in Springdale, said the festival offered outstanding goods at reasonable prices. "It's gratifying — the work here is very good. All local artists, and the quality is fabulous. In Sedona, the prices would be twice what they are here."
Foundation chair Gary Terry said that although it seemed like attendance was down slightly from an estimated 6,000 last year, the festival still drew a good crowd. He said the foundation's ongoing goal is to make art accessible to the city and its people.
"This event is not much of a moneymaker," he said, smiling. "It's more a service to the community and the artists themselves."