Crowds turn out for art


Sweltering temperatures and threatening storm clouds may have kept some away from the opening weekend of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, but those who came yesterday had a blast.

Hundreds of people swarmed Lake Kittamaqundi, enjoying performances, arts and crafts and the ever-popular Italian ice treat. Festival organizers said they couldn't gauge how many people strolled the lakefront yesterday but were thrilled that ticket sales have been brisk.

"We've gotten tons of response," said Mary Ann Knab, marketing director for the festival, who added that a lakefront performance by Cajun band BeauSoleil attracted several hundred Friday night. "It's been absolutely fabulous."

Officials of the regional festival are hoping to attract more than 30,000 people to the 10-day event, which began Thursday night with free music performances and a gala at Savage Mill.

Bolstered by sell-out performances by the legendary mime Marcel Marceau, the Next Ice Age ice dancing troupe and singer Emmylou Harris, the festival has reported more than $127,000 in sales, a 55 percent increase over last year's total of $82,000.

"We are so pleased," Knab said yesterday. "We have gotten so many calls, and people seem to really be enjoying the festival this year."

An impeccably dressed mariachi band strolled the lakefront as people in kayaks swept past colorful sculptures floating on the water, and Bud, Columbia's official bird dog, kept the geese at bay. Some grabbed pieces of shade at the Storytelling Fountain, as griot Jamal Karam entertained them with tales and drumming.

At the Creation Station, parents waited with their youngsters beneath a green canopy for the chance to assemble noisemakers, butterflies, masks and mini-totem poles.

Carol Zika, curator of the station, said volunteers were kept busy helping little ones sprinkle sequins and glue construction paper.

"I call it make-and-take projects, and we had people show up two hours before we opened wanting to get started," said Zika, an art educator who also teaches adult and children's classes out of her business, Zika Studios in Randallstown. "I designed activities for all ages and the sky's the limit."

Four-year-old Riley Goodman watched in wonder as 15-year-old volunteer Vecca Close helped him tie a sparkly, blue pipe cleaner around a clear, plastic baggie filled with silver stars and brightly colored pieces of paper to make a butterfly. His mother, Vicki Goodman of Woodlawn, said her son was excited to be at the festival.

"He's enjoying it very much," Goodman said as she and her son sought out a place in line to start the next project. "He's having a lot of fun."

David Cohen and his wife, Jill, admired the purple noisemakers their daughters Lainey, 6, and Jessica, 2, fashioned out of construction paper, beads and buttons. Cohen, who lives in Columbia, said he and his wife have been coming to the festival for years.

"We always have a great time," Cohen said. "We usually make a day of it and have dinner here at the lake."

Decoy carver Ken Clodfelter showed off his prized snowy owl decoy from his booth. Clodfelter, who is based in Baltimore, said he had received a lot of interest in his work.

"It's been a very interesting crowd," Clodfelter said as he rested among his decorative decoys. "They have been asking a lot of really good questions. It's a labor of love and I never get tired of talking about my decoys."

Catherine Johnson shared the Native American history of her pine needle baskets to all who stopped by her booth. Johnson, who as a child learned how to make the baskets from a Cherokee sharecropper on her family's farm in Darlington, S.C., said she was enjoying her first exhibition at the festival.

"The people here are so nice," said Johnson, who lives in Prince George's County. "I have been having a great time."

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