Where in Toledo can one find engraved hunting knives with ivory-accented handles?
Or eight-foot-tall modernist, bronze sculptures? And heaping plates of sweet potato fries?
The Crosby Festival of the Arts, of course.
Featuring artists from as far away as Florida and vendors frying up all things sweet and salty, the 44th annual festival drew thousands of people to the Toledo Botanical Garden yesterday.
It was the first day of the two-day event, which concludes today.
Munching on freshly popped kettle corn and sipping homemade lemonade, lookers browsed row upon row of stalls filled with a variety of artwork, whether it was blown glass or "planted speechless worms" made of high-fired, stoneware clay.
Serious spenders and penny-pinchers alike said the show's extensive selection and inviting atmosphere were major draws.
And with prices ranging from $10 to $10,000, there was something for everyone.
"The size is manageable and the prices are manageable," said Lisa Dewhirst, who has been attending the fair for 10 years, adding that she had no plans to change her festival spending habits because of the recession.
The wares can inspire young fair-goers, as well as adults.
"It gives me ideas for my own artwork," said Abbi Lydey, 10.
Cheri Lydey, Abbi's mother, said she has probably been to the festival at least seven times over the years. Though she recently moved to Cleveland, she said she doesn't mind the drive to and from the festival. She said she also enjoys the opportunity to take in the "good mix of art."
In a shady spot overlooking the garden, youngsters put their creative juices to work at the kids' arts and crafts tent by beading jewelry, coloring, and making paper hats.
Artists said they're drawn by the festival's picturesque atmosphere and friendly organizers. They said the botanical gardens' spaciousness and greenery are refreshing changes from the hot asphalt and cramped quarters they typically find at other city art shows.
"Shows are very exhausting," said Jim Parker, who has been hand-crafting knives for almost 20 years and attending the Crosby festival for at least seven. "This show really seems to realize the only reason they have a show is because of the artists."
He added that small gestures, such as providing coffee and breakfast for the artists, make a world of difference.
Another perk is the preshow gala. This year, the artists had a chance to mingle with art enthusiasts and preview their work at the festival's Caribbean-themed Gala Preview Party, which took place Friday evening.
The event drew more than 700 guests and featured all 240 artists, Melissa Shaner, the festival's director, said.
Some 240 of 450 artists who applied for a booth this year were selected. About a third of them are new to the festival, Ms. Shaner said.
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