Art in the Park Festival planning is underway

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Showing their bling are Art in the Park organizers. Kris Grover, Kate Chandler, Jillian Herrmann and Leslie Gibbons.

Art in the Park planning committee members are, from left: Kris Grover, Kate Chandler, Leslie Gibbons, Jillian Herrmann and Shannon Durbin.


By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Five local artists have been working since last August on something they hope will become a signature event for Elkader. The women are planning an “Art in the Park” weekend August 22 and 23 in Founders Park. 

The idea of a fine arts festival has been around for several years. Main Street Director Roger Thomas has pushed for one since 2006. It was part of the application packet when Main Street Elkader applied to the Department of Cultural Affairs for a Cultural and Entertainment District designation. Individually and at different times, he gauged the interest of each of the current organizers—artists Kate Chandler, Shannon Durbin, Leslie Gibbons, Kris Grover and Jillian Webber. Nobody wanted to tackle such a large event on their own but once they got together, the five women became a planning machine! Already, 20 artists have committed to the festival, bringing the planners two-thirds of the way to their goal of filling 30 tents with fine art. 

“The time is finally right to move forward,” said Kris Grover. “Previously, we didn’t have a venue like Founders Park, which, among other things, is nice and level with extra-wide sidewalks for wheelchairs.”

Grover added that recently completed efforts like the Turkey River water walkway and downtown façade development projects also contribute to the timing and appeal of the festival.

“We hope people will attend the festival, enjoy other amenities here and walk away saying, ‘Who knew they had this much?’” she said.

Festival organizers hope their two-day event will attract at least 1,500 people. That’s the number of people who attended the first Driftless Area Arts Festival in Soldiers Grove, WI. That event now brings in 5,000 people annually, and more than $650,000 in art has been sold over its 10-year history.

“We think ours will be bigger because of our location,” said Gibbons. “Being just off Highway 13 makes us so accessible and, like Kris, said, Founders Park is such an incredible setting.”

According to Chandler, artists from Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota will be represented at the event with art ranging from textiles to ceramics, sculpture, painting and handmade jewelry. In addition to fine art, the weekend will include live music and performance art. Food will be available for purchase; wine and beer samplings are scheduled, too. 

“One great feature of the festival will be the Children’s Gallery and Creation Station,” said Grover. “We’re working with local art teachers to prepare a children’s art show to be on display at the festival. Throughout festival weekend, artists and teachers will be on hand to offer hands-on art and craft activities to children of all ages.”

To spread the word about the festival, organizers participated in Elkader’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. They tossed out plastic rings with instructions attached to take a “selfie” with the ring and post to the Art in the Park Facebook page. Winners were selected in a random drawing. The group is also using social media and print promotion like postcards and bookmarks. To supplement the seed money they received from Main Street, they’re seeking sponsorships and private donations. An “Opera House Sneak Preview” is also planned. Artwork will be displayed on the mezzanine of the Opera House during the upcoming run of “Moon Over Buffalo.” All of the artwork will be for sale and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the event. Private showings of the work are also available. The group has also written several grants, which, if received, will be coordinated through Main Street.

For more information on the event or to donate to it, visit or

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