Winter Fest
Art and Craft Fair

by Chris Gustin
courtesy photo of Joan Haab

When all the Thanksgiving leftovers are stored in Tupperware containers and the Macy’s parade is over for another year, many people in the Brown County area bundle up and head up the hill to the Seasons Lodge for the annual Winter Fest Art and Craft Fair.

The show is Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 28 and 29. Hours at the Conference Center are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The annual event is held in conjunction with The Art of Christmas in Brown County Holiday Festival in downtown Nashville.

With her tables and clothing racks tucked just inside the main door of the conference center, weaver Joan Haab is both a greeter and a historian. Haab has been involved in the Winter Fest for most of its 20 years and knows what makes it work.

Haab and her daughter, Kathy McGow, served as coordinators for a number of years when the show first began. “We wanted to do a show that would be a showplace for Indiana artists. People seem to enjoy it,” Haab said, noting the camaraderie among the exhibitors is wonderful. Even artisans who normally do not do many shows love to do the Winter Fest, one exhibitor noted.

McGow thinks the show is well juried and that “it’s nice for artists to have a quality show in their own locale.” McGow owns two shops in Nashville, Salt Creek Weavers/Earth Dance, but managed the Winter Fest for most of its first decade.

“It was nice when we had live entertainment,” she said. But the show grew “we had to take down the stage and use the space for artist booths.”

Haab says that many of the visitors to the show come from surrounding areas, like Indianapolis and Cincinnati, and tell her that they make a special trip into Nashville just for the Winter Fest. “They come back year after year. They look forward to it.”

Cathy Hendrickson, who makes folk dolls, currently serves as Winter Fest coordinator with her husband, Paul, an artist. She says the show “gets in your blood. I would miss it if we did not do it. We’ve made lots of new friends and there are crafts that people bring to the show that you don’t normally see.”

Paul Hendrickson says, “We have enjoyed managing the show for 4 or 5 years now and it is a feeling of relief when everyone is set-up and the doors are ready to open.

“It is great to hear exhibitors say ‘It is so nice here.’ At the end of the show, we all go home tired, but we know that we will see most everyone next year.”

Among the arts and crafts that will be available this year are painting, ceramics, baskets, weaving and knitting, dolls, stained and blown glass, jewelry, quilted wall art, furniture, metal art, photography, folk and gourd art. Other booths will display recycled tin, hand-milled soap, dried botanicals, scherenschnitte, knitted clothing, recycled vintage textiles, and ironwork. Most of the exhibitors come from Indiana or nearby states, and most return year after year.

The Winter Fest is juried and administered by members of the Brown County Craft Guild, a not-for-profit group of area artisans. There is room in the Seasons Lodge Conference Center for 45 booths and there is usually a waiting list for the spaces. The jury committee meets at Haab’s house in September to view the slides, review the entries and fill the slots.

Artists sit with their own booths during the show, talking with visitors, answering questions, or doing demonstrations of their particular art or craft. During lulls in the traffic flow, exhibitors walk around the Conference Center, catching up with old friends, admiring new designs, or gather at the “vendors only” room to share edible creations … some left from the holiday, and some made special for the Winter Fest. “The food is wonderful,” says Paul Hendrickson.

Booth rent and admission fees generate money for the Craft Guild that is used to provide art supplies to Brown County schools. This year, Nashville, Van Buren, Sprunica and Helmsburg elementary schools each received checks for $250. In 2001, the Brown County Junior High Art Fund received $2,000 for supplies. In the past, scholarships have been given to Brown County High School students. Additionally, the Brown County 4-H Club receives a free booth at the show for their annual pine wreath and garland sale.

Admission to the Winter Fest is by $1 donation or a special invitation post card. There is ample parking at the Conference Center, located on Nashville’s east side, just off Highway 46, about a half-mile from downtown. More information can be obtained by calling Cathy or Paul Hendrickson at (812) 587-5068.