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Fest brings art, music lakeside this weekend

Fest brings art, music lakeside this weekend


WILLIAMS BAY — What makes one of the most picturesque spots on Geneva Lake even better? Fine art.

The Williams Bay Fine Art & Craft Fest returns Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26, to Edgewater Park in Williams Bay.

Turning 44 this year, the event brings a juried art show lakeside, along with live music and food vendors.

Originally, the Fest was called Art in the Bay. The first Art in the Bay was in 1976, and it was part of Williams Bay’s U.S. Bicentennial celebration.

In 2013, Sandra Johnson discovered the event was on the verge of being cancelled, so she founded an organization to save it — the Williams Bay Cultural Arts Alliance.

Although the non-profit was established to operate the Fest, it now has several additional programs and offers scholarships and awards.

Johnson and Dave Rowland, director of the Williams Bay Recreation Department, revitalized the event.

They gave it its current name, set up scholarships for local art students, established cash awards for participating artists, added a program to spotlight emerging artists and started a craft tent for children.

A committee including Marijo Petullo, Rita Pilarski, Michele Melzer, Jackie Winslow and local art teacher Matt Dunlap now runs the event. Petullo is chairwoman of the committee.

Holding degrees in music and vocal performance, Johnson is committed to supporting the arts.

In the following Q&A, Johnson discussed the current art scene in Williams Bay, event changes this year and what still makes her a little emotional each time the Fest comes to town.

Note: The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Resorter: What is the state of the current art scene in Williams Bay?

Sandra Johnson: Sadly, in the seven years since I have been back in the Bay, I have seen many art studios come and go. Because of the peaceful, scenic and uncrowded nature of the Bay, it seems that the Bay would be a perfect place for artists to congregate. I hear people say that today, I heard my mom say it back in the 1970s, and I’m sure the earlier generations have thought the same thing.

Resorter: What do you think is the secret to the success of the Fine Art & Craft Fest?

Johnson: Community, dedication and a vision of what is possible.

Resorter: What is different about this year’s Fest?

Johnson: We are smaller this year. Due to the virus, we had fewer applications. This is actually a good thing as we will be able to space the booths out. We will have hand sanitation stations, masks available and social distancing directional signage. We decided not to have the Kid’s Craft Tent or the Emerging Artist Incubator this year just to keep things a bit simpler.

Resorter: How many artists?

Johnson: So, we have 30 registered artists, down from the usual 45. The cool thing is that we have an equal number of fine artists and fine crafters. This brings a lot of interest and variety to the show. We have a large group of watercolor artists this year, which is really awesome because they are all so individual in their expression. Some watercolors have that dreamy look, while others have a precision that makes them look like a photograph! In our fine craft category, we have several new artists from southern Wisconsin and I love that because their work is so unique, and this show gives them the opportunity to be seen by a broader audience. At the same time, visitors from the Chicago area get to see some Wisconsin art that they probably won’t encounter elsewhere.

Resorter: What do you enjoy most about the event?

Johnson: The first year, I remember coming down the hill into the Bay and seeing all the artists setting up their white tents in the park and feeling just exhilarated! I couldn’t believe it was actually happening! Now, when I see those tents go up and all the hard working artists and staff in the earnest pursuit of bringing a fine art show to our little Bay hamlet, I feel a little emotional, full of gratitude!

For more Williams Bay Fine Art & Craft photos, visit

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