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Face paint artist Jens Werner shows Eva Meerdink, 5, the finished product of her newly painted rainbow on her face Saturday afternoon during Art in the Park. Werner’s face painting booth is among more than 100 other artist booths set up for the annual event. Trent Opstedahl | Bemidji Pioneer

'We just love Art in the Park'; more than 100 artists showcasing their work

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BEMIDJI — Art in the Park has become a family hotspot for the Meerdink family, attending the festival for the past 12 years as part of their vacation.

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"We just love Art in the Park," said Kammie, mother of two who hails from Champaign, IL. "It’s got good variety and has gotten so much bigger since we started coming."

The 46th annual Bemidji Community Art Center "Art in the Park" continues today, with more than 100 artists showcasing their work along the Lake Bemidji waterfront at Library Park.

"People are out and about here and the weather is finally nice for Art in the Park," said Lorie Forshee-Donnay, executive director of the BCAC.

More than 4,000 people will pass through the numerous vendor booths, which include pottery, paintings, jewelry, and textiles, among many other specialty items during the two-day event, according to Forshee-Donnay.

"We want to create a varied shopping experience," she said, adding that the event is a juried arts and crafts festival to ensure the greatest variety of products. "Many of the people who are here come to shop and find something unique, but it’s also become a social event for people here."

Meerdinks said they specifically schedule their vacation in northern Minnesota to coincide with the art festival to make sure they can attend.

"There’s such a variety of different things, and the kids love it," Kammie’s husband, John said.

Waiting in a large, winding line to get their faces painted, Eva, 5, and Daniel, 3, could hardly contain their excitement to express themselves.

"I need to get a rainbow and then have the white lines drawn on my face," Eva excitedly told artist Jens Werner. "And maybe I could get a unicorn done, too?"

Werner has been a family favorite at Art in the Park for the past six years, as many parents said she has a knack for making children happy.

"Hanging out with kids is relaxing for me," Werner said. "The excitement they get from the anticipation and then when they see the finished product in the mirror is a great feeling."

With a degree in art and art history from Bemidji State University, Werner said being a part of Art in the Park is an endeavor that provides her with happiness the same as her art provides the children happiness.

"I like the courage it gives kids; it brings out the characters in kids," she said. "For them to ask for, I don’t know, a tiger painted on their face and to then prance around between booths saying, ‘here I am,’ with the art on their face — it’s special."

And while Art in the Park has become a special event to look forward to for many children like Eva, the festival is also a means of enjoyment for adults, too.

Charlene Meanmarin said she convinced her husband to extend their vacation in Bemidji by a day to check out the arts and crafts fair.

"Some of the artwork was really nice," she said. "There was a nice variety."

Among the variety of art for attendees to enjoy was knick-knacks and dishware made of northern hardwood, handcrafted by David and Kathy Towley.

The local woodturners said they want to bring back times of simpleness when people used natural resources as a way of living.

"By coming to these shows, we try to reintroduce the olden days of things," Kathy said. "When people come by, they like that they can take a piece of the northland with them."

Vendors at Art in the Park for the past five years, Kathy said each piece of wood she turns and forms into a work of art is unique in its own way.

"We let each piece of wood tell us what it’s supposed to be," she said. "We’re all about the character in each piece."

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