Step beyond the entrance of the Toledo Botanical Garden, and you’ll find yourself in Wonderland — no rabbit hole required.
As the Crosby Festival of the Arts makes its 48th annual appearance this weekend, the garden features flowers the size of human heads.
Stainless-steel wings outstretched in midflight, giant dragonflies hover among lilies two feet across. And rainbow-colored frogs squat on poles stuck in the ground, their metal tongues poking at imaginary flies.
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Made of copper, brass, and stainless steel, this larger-than-life garden scene is the product of AJ’s Copper Garden Studio and Gallery, a business operated by artist Anthony Patti in Homestead, Iowa. A four-year veteran of the Crosby Festival, Mr. Patti said the Toledo art fair is the “best show” he attends every year.
“I love doing botanical [garden] shows because my work is so botanical in nature,” Mr. Patti said. “I don’t have a green thumb, so this [art] is how I have a green thumb.”
Held every year at the Toledo Botanical Garden, the festival opened Saturday on the garden grounds from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The festival raises funds for the garden, which usually offers free admission.
Friday’s gala preview, for which patrons paid $75 admission and got to purchase art before the festival, drew more than 300 people. Event organizers hope to raise $250,000 at the festival and attract more than 20,000 visitors, said Karen Ranney Wolkins, executive director of the botanical garden.
“I think [the festival] is a fabulous expression of the marriage of nature and art,” Ms. Wolkins said. “It is a wonderful way to introduce people to the garden, and we’re hoping people come back.”
This year’s festival features 218 artists from the United States and Canada who are specialists in ceramics, fiber, glass, graphics, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, sculpture, or wood. To display their work in the festival, artists must pay a $25 application fee, send in photos of their work, and purchase a booth for $250 to $500.
Sherry Paulsen, operator of Booth 26 and owner of City Art Market, sells digital prints of local landmarks in 15 cities across the country. Lions, tigers, gorillas, and polar bears peek out from a picture frame as a tribute to the Toledo Zoo.
“When we do these [prints], we get to know so much history. We have 250 images; we have 250 stories,” she said.
Frank and Susi McCormack specialize in stoneware and clay animals, expressing their art in a style they call “whimsical.” Appearing at the festival since 1977, their booth this year has a pig dressed in overalls and bathroom mirrors with silly signs like “Gotta poop.”
“They’re fun; they’ll bring a smile to your face,” said Laurie Snyder, who has been buying art at the festival for 30 years.
Tom Marino, a Toledo artist specializing in ceramic vessels, won the title of Best in Show.
A 30-year Crosby veteran, he received his first Best in Show award by experimenting with new red and blue glazes, said Mike Wallace, one of six art judges at the festival.
The overall Best in Show winner receives a cash prize of $500. Best in Show winners in each category receive $300.
Mark Sudduth, a Cleveland-based artist who won Best in Show in the glass category, has attended the festival since he graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1983.
“The botanical garden is really a lovely place,” Mr. Sudduth said. “A lot of people come, and it’s a beautiful setting.”
Other category winners include William Shearrow for ceramic art, Donna Mundschau for fiber art, Robin Lauersdorf for graphics, Molly Strader for jewelry, Danielle Herrera for mixed media, M.J. Rigby for painting, Randall Shedd for photography, Kyle Hawke for sculpture, and Donald Shurlow for wood art.
Festival-goers can tour the garden, purchase original, handmade art, and listen to live music from performers such as Mystic Wood and Don Thomas. Vendors will sell corn dogs, funnel cakes, kettle corn, and more.
The festivities conclude today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the botanical garden at 5403 Elmer Dr.
Tickets cost $8 at the gate and $7 at The Andersons stores. Admission is free for garden members and children 12 and under. For more information, contact the botanical garden at 419-536-5566.
Contact Rosa Nguyen at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.