As the City of Waukee has grown, so has its art scene and for the second consecutive year, the fifth annual Waukee Arts Festival will span two days.
Last year, the festival saw a boost from 67 artists and vendors to 105 registrations. This year, Centennial Park hosted 126 stations for a wide variety of artists ranging from newcomers to veterans of the festival.
Featured artist Kelly Kunzler of Valley Junction said he’s been at the festival ever since winning Best in Show at the first edition in 2015.
“There are some shows that are definitely not as strong as other ones,” Kunzler said. “And I think this is one that’s been consistently getting better. The more that sort of happens, it brings better and better artists and that really helps.”
Shawn Palek, who completed the new mural inside Perry Perk in April, said he made the festival an all-day event after driving down from Slater. While he’s an active artist around the area, he said this is his first year at Waukee’s festival.
Down the line, Layne Andrews from the greater Des Moines area presented her minimalist flower and space paintings. But that’s not all she was attending for.
A disabled veteran that used to work as an elementary school teacher, she said that she uses her art to open up kids’ creativity and minds. She said that when they stop by her booth, she hands them a butterfly clothespin magnet for them to decorate and use as a refrigerator magnet to hang up their art or special projects with their parents.
While a majority of artists come from the area, the festival isn’t limited just to local artists. Over the years it has brought in people from hours away, including Ann Dahl’s license plate art from the Kansas City area.
“I don’t necessarily fit into the ‘fine art festivals’ and I chose this festival in the beginning because my sister lived in Ankeny,” Dahl said. “And I’ve been coming ever since (for the past couple years).”
And for those interested, she said that the letter “I” is the hardest to find because only six or seven states use the character.
Even further away than Dahl was Lesya Ryzhenkova and her Ukranian bead paintings. While she has been in the country for nine years now, this was just the second show and made the trip all the way from the Wisconsin border. After years of turning her hobby into a business and building a portfolio, she said she chose the Waukee Arts Festival as her second-ever show.
That wasn’t the only art on hand for the droves of art enthusiasts. As with past festivals, there was plenty of craft beers on hand along with artisan food trucks ranging from acai, fresh ice cream and wood oven pizza. And to keep the night alive, live music was provided by the Brazilian 2wins who woke up the crowd with an electric violin and ukelele rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The festival will continue from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday for artist exhibitions and will feature more live music from The Host Country at 6:30 p.m. followed by The Nadas at 8 p.m.
For more info on participating artists, visit www.waukeeartsfestival.org.