DECATUR — David Goebel didn't really consider himself an arts and crafts fan before visiting the Arts in Central Park festival with his wife, Veronica.
The Goebels were among several attendees during the event's VIP Preview Party on Friday, browsing the variety of handmade pieces and artwork displayed by over 70 vendors from around the country. Arts in Central Park opens to the pubic today (Saturday) for free and runs until Sunday evening.
As the Mount Zion couple prepared to leave for the night, each had something to show from their first-ever trip to the festival — Veronica bought a handcrafted soap dispenser with a floral print, and David purchased a piece of nature photography featuring an owl.
"There's down-to-earth practical things and then there's more artsy stuff," Veronica Goebel said of the festival's selection of for-sale art. "There's affordable stuff, and if people want to spend more, they can."
Featuring jewelry, sculptures, blown glass, fiber arts, paintings and pottery, Arts in Central Park has become a late-summer staple that brings together artists and the community members who support their work.
A joint effort between the Decatur Area Arts Council and the Illinois Art Gallery (formerly known as Gallery 510), the event's history can be traced back to 1962 when it was called the Downtown Art Fair.
After several name and location changes, the festival made Central Park its permanent home 11 years ago. Jerry Johnson, executive director of the arts council, attributes a couple different things to the event's continued success.
"It's a really quaint and cozy area, our Central Park, to have an art fair," he said. "The artists really enjoy the atmosphere here ... (and) the friendliness of our guests and the hospitality of the Decatur Area Arts Council."
This is Doug Bergeron's second year as a vendor, offering a variety of photographs rooted in his background as an engineer. In addition to the community of artists and art lovers that he finds attractive about the festival, the Mason City resident said he's also a fan of the wide array of art that is brought to the area.
"The size of this show allows for so much diversity in both mediums and in how different artists express themselves within the same medium," Bergeron said. "Maybe you have three, four, five different photographers. But I can promise you, every one of them is different."
In addition to the vendors, Arts in Central Park will have a variety of activities geared toward children today and Sunday, including face painting, caricatures and a selection of others sponsored by the Children's Museum of Illinois. There will also be a designated area for kids 12 and under to shop for items priced at $5 and below.
If the artwork isn't a draw, Johnson suggested coming to check out the live entertainment during the weekend, such as Irish folk band Broken Brogue and performances from Theatre 7's production of "Young Frankenstein."
To David and Veronica Goebel, the festival provides several reasons to spend a day in downtown Decatur.
"I would come first out of a love for Decatur, and to try to support the things that Decatur is putting on that are unique to us," David Goebel said. "You've got the fountain, you've got the downtown. People should come out to support what they're doing for the downtown, as well as the artists."