Coupeville arts and crafts festival returns – with pandemic adjustments

A small-scale arts and crafts festival returns to Coupeville this weekend.

Whidbey residents can enjoy this amalgamation of the vibrant local arts scene from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 14 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 15 on Front Street and surrounding streets in Coupeville.

Organizers are excited to be up and running after last year’s festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but they still make the safety of guests and vendors a top priority.

The festival will feature works by 114 local artists, a drop of around 33% from a regular year.

Festival board chair Deborah O’Brien said fewer artists were participating this year to allow for social distancing. Booths should be spaced 10 feet apart instead of side by side.

There will also be less food this year, with seven vendors in attendance instead of the usual 11.

O’Brien said some of the festival’s regulars went bankrupt during the pandemic; others had already committed to different events over the weekend, as organizers were not sure until late in the planning process if food would be allowed.

Despite the smaller numbers, festival-goers can still expect a wide variety of art and food. Participating artists work in all kinds of media, including wood, glass, photography, jewelry and more. Hungry visitors can choose from pizzas, grills, and Asian dishes, among others.

“It’s going to be an expensive festival for me, I can say that,” O’Brien joked.

One of the exhibiting artists is Priscilla Lowry, owner of Whidbey Wax Works Artisan Beeswax Candles. Although the Langley-based artist has participated in the festival for decades, this is the first year that she has exhibited her own work.

“It’s nice to sell at an arts festival,” Lowry said. “I love selling in farmers’ markets, it’s wonderful, but as a craftsman it’s really significant that the product is appreciated at that level as well, as a fine art.”

A few regular must-haves will be missing at this year’s festival. There will be no live music, to encourage social distancing. The Pacific Northwest Art School has also chosen not to present an exhibition this year.

“It will be more like a festival from 20 years ago,” said O’Brien. “It’s a little step back in time, that’s what we do.”

The arts festival comes amid a new wave of local COVID-19 cases as the highly transmissible delta variant strain makes its way through Island County, where vaccination rates lag behind to the rest of the state.

O’Brien said to protect the safety of participants, everyone will need to wear a mask inside buildings and on the festival shuttle, regardless of vaccination status. The organizers are also asking for masks to be worn outside.

A walk-in mobile vaccination clinic will be present at the festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The vaccine is free and Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will all be available. The clinic will be located in the public parking lot next to the Coupeville library.

Lowry said she was not concerned about the safety of the festival due to precautions taken by organizers.

“I think the show’s promoters at this point are really, really, incredibly attentive and thoughtful,” she said. “There is a lot of integrity in following guidelines properly, and it seems like everyone really does because we want life to be good.”

Photo by Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times Priscilla Lowry melts beeswax to filter it through cheesecloth and pour it into candles.


About Tracy G. Larimore

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