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[caption width="250" caption=" Festival-goers peruse the various arts and crafts displays in downtown Delaware Saturday. The two-day event generated decent-sized crowds despite the damp weather. (Gazette | Conner Howard) "][/caption]

CONNER HOWARD

Gazette Intern

Grey clouds and a short but fierce rainstorm could not keep the crowds off Sandusky Street for the 2011 Delaware Arts Festival Saturday and Sunday. Delaware natives and attendees from across the state turned out by the dozens to support the creative arts.

Food, entertainment and a wide variety of art for sale kept the crowds at a healthy size. Among the selection of crafts and products on display were handmade clothes, framed paintings and photographs, bent-metal yard decorations and many others.

Joy and Zach Ingram, art merchants from Newbury, have attended the Delaware Arts Festival for four years. They keep coming back for the friendly people and good crowds, they said.

“Every time we come to Delaware, it’s like we get a big hug from the town,” Zach Ingram said. “We love this show because people here come out for their local functions.”

The Ingrams manage Brown Bear Pottery, a company producing hand-made pottery using Ohio clay. Joy Ingram designs and creates the product herself. She had high hopes for her sales on Saturday, expecting her business to pick up later in the day.

“Pottery, we find, tends to sell later because people look at it and it’s heavy, so they don’t want to carry it around during the show. So, we tend to get busier toward the end of the day, but so far we’re doing pretty well,” Joy said.

While many festival-goers spent their first few hours checking out the exhibits, many others made their way toward the east end of Winter Street, where several food vendors had set up shop. All the old standbys of classic fair food could be found here: grilled chicken, corn dogs, fresh lemonade, boardwalk fries and even chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick. Delaware natives Craig and Jennifer Semon said they stood in line for bourbon chicken for about five minutes, and that the food was well worth the wait.

Early Saturday afternoon, thunder could be heard and droplets of rain could be felt. However, most festival attendees were not discouraged. Delaware residents Kevin Stith and Barb Stimpert were determined to stick around despite the threat of rain. Stith said he and Stimpert have been attending the Delaware Arts Festival “probably as long as it’s been in existence.” Clearly, a little rain was not going to stop them this year.

As sheets of rain began pouring down, the crowds thinned out as attendees took shelter in nearby shops and artists’ tents. Michelle Ishida, an artist from Delaware County who designs clothing and recycled-material hats and handbags, held out hope that the crowds would return and her business would pick back up after the rain.

“I think that if it (the rain) goes away, people will come back. Everyone’s very supportive, usually,” Ishida said. “This is a smaller festival, but it’s good because it’s local, so for me it’s five minutes from my house and I love it.”

As a member of the Delaware Artists Guild, Ishida enjoys substantial support from the community during the festival. Repeat business from acquaintances in the area gave Ishida a positive outlook on her prospects for the festival.

“I’m involved in the arts here in town, so I know a lot of people and they come visit,” Ishida said. “I have a lot of regular customers.”

Within an hour, the rainstorm had ended as abruptly as it began, and the festival returned to life as if nothing had happened. The streets become crowded once again and merchants saw customers return in droves.

Despite the inclement weather, the feeling in the crowd was generally positive toward the end of the day. Angie Bair-Ross, a Delaware resident who came to the festival with her six-year-old daughter Sophie and her four-year-old King Shepherd Brutus, remarked favorably on the crowds, the exhibits and the food.

“It’s great, we love it. We come every year,” Bair-Ross said.

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