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Festival draws crowds to park

Sun., June 1, 2008

The last thing Lisa Summers expected to find Saturday at ArtFest was her daughters playing with smelly dead fish.

“That’s just nasty,” Summers said, covering her mouth as 9-year-old Courtney Eastep poked the fish with her finger and then picked up the scaly body for a better look.

“No it’s not,” Eastep said before slopping a big splat of purple tempera paint on the flounderlike side. Then came the yellow and red paint, accenting the fins and the head that still had its glassy eyes.

A faint smell of warm fish filled the air at the booth in Spokane’s Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition where parents paid $2 so their children could color either a real or rubber fish. Volunteers then helped the kids press the specimens between paper sheets, creating colorful impressions to take home.

Eastep used her mom’s cell phone to report her artistic adventure to her father. Then her sister, Hailey Eastep, 7, decided to paint her own dead fish.

The Make It Art booth is a hit with children who often get bored looking at the rows of paintings, pottery and photos.

Face painting is most popular with the kids, followed closely by the wood sculpture and fish painting.

“She remembers it from two years ago and wanted to come back,” Tony Aleto said of his 6-year-old daughter, Ava, who was covering a dead sunfish with stripes of purple, red and orange.

Ava said she doesn’t fish much but dead fish don’t bother her.

“I have a grandpa who loves to fish,” she said with a big grin, showing off her missing front teeth.

Proceeds rom the children’s art booths go toward art education programs, said volunteer coordinator Lou Carver.

Last year’s three-day ArtFest raised about $8,000, she said.

A crowd of people weaved through the aisles of 145 vendors from across the Northwest, selling everything from glass jewelry and yard art made from recycled metals to oil paintings of European hillsides.

“It’s better than expected because of this fabulous weather,” said Mary Benham, of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, who was manning the information booth. “We’ve had a steady flow all day.”

Besides art, the festival also offers food and music. The Kosher Red Hots, a klezmer music group, got through a few Mediterranean songs Saturday evening before a special guest joined the performance – loud claps of thunder that came from a darkening sky.

ArtFest is open today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and Spokane Transit is offering free parking at First and Jefferson with a $1 roundtrip fare to the festival grounds.

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