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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Sue Putman contemplates the purchase of a garden sculpture Sunday from the Altra Design 2000 booth in the Crafters’ Market, part of the Three Rivers Festival. For a schedule of today’s events, see Page 7A.
Three Rivers Festival

Crafts galore in festival market

Sunshine brings visitors, enthusiasts alike to shop, socialize downtown

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Cyclists keep cool in the shade Sunday as they watch sidewalk artists put finishing touches on their drawings for the annual Chalk Walk.

It wasn’t long before Art in the Park and the Crafters Market were crawling with visitors Sunday, shopping and socializing at the more than 100 art and craft booths set up at Freimann Square.

Shortly before 11 a.m., crafters and artists began setting up shop for the final sale of the weekend, hoping that the sunny weather would bring out summer shoppers by the dozens.

It worked.

Less than 1 1/2 hours later, shoppers swarmed the area, some searching for the perfect piece to add to their collection and others peeking into each tent to see the creative crafts being sold.

The booths, part of the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival, were open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving shoppers several hours to wander through the area.

Penney Whisenhunt, of Huntington, had the prime spot at Sunday’s show – her wire sculptures cooled beneath the shade of a large tree.

She and her husband, Jerry, have been making two-dimensional and three-dimensional metal art and custom metal pieces since about 1999 for their company, Altra Design 2000 Inc.

“It’s definitely a partnership,” she said. “I have my jobs, he has his jobs and we help each other out so we can get things done.”

The couple participate in about 50 fairs and festivals each year, often bringing their sons J.J., 15, and Pryce, 13, along to help.

“It’s good for them, too, talking with the public, learning about business and handling money,” Penney Whisenhunt said.

Part of the challenge of attending so many shows each year, especially when they return to the same festivals several times, is finding a new and creative way to catch shoppers’ eyes.

“I see some of the same people over and over again,” she said. “We’re always looking for something new for them.”

This year, some of her new products included garden-friendly items such as water turtles, ants, tulips and “sparkeys” – wire bugs made out of, you guessed it, spark plugs.

A newcomer to the annual Art in the Park and Crafters Market this year was Wine & Canvas, an art studio led by Deb Baxter featuring painting classes with wine, or in the case of the children’s classes, cookies.

Wine & Canvas, 6410 W. Jefferson Blvd., offers classes for adults and children with a variety of painting skills and lessons available for ages 5 and up, Baxter said.

On Sunday, artists old and young gathered inside the makeshift studio to create their own painting.

The first class of the day painted a starfish on a beach, resting between the sand and ocean.

Ireland Miller, 11, and her brother Remy Miller, 8, sat next to each other in the booth, turning around as Baxter instructed them about where to place the next color.

Ireland, a student at St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth School in Fort Wayne, said she had some practice in art class, so painting a starfish was nothing new.

“Probably the hardest part was just getting the shapes right,” she said, pointing to her starfish’s three pointed limbs.

Both siblings agreed that underwater animals were their favorite. Ireland declared that dolphins were her favorite, while Remy preferred sharks.

They also shared a table with Mayce Bieberich, 5, their cousin from Fishers.

Mayce, too busy for talking, focused on Baxter’s instructions, stopping to ensure that she was using the correct paintbrush and that her colors would match the painting on display.

As Baxter completed the class, Mayce carefully placed all of her brushes back in the bucket of water and grinned at her work.

“See, look,” she said, pointing to the starfish with a smile. “He’s a starfish and that’s the ocean.”