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Saxonburg Festival of the Arts enjoys successful weekend

| Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For Trib Total Media
Visitors from Altoona, Elaine Toomey, left and MaryLou Preston, look at the wood carved pumpkins, made by Damian Skal of Chicora, during the Saxonburg Festival of Arts, on Sunday, September 8, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Alicia Maust of Natrona Heights holds a solid glass marble called 'Monsterz.' The marbles and other glass art are made by Chad Parker, right, a member of the Saxonburg Area Artists Cooperative, who originally made the Monsterz marble for charity donation and now they are on sale during the Saxonburg Festival of Arts, on Saturday, September 6, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Vick Carlesi, of Carlesi's Wood-Fired Pizza, from Kittanning jokes with a customer and Emily Poeppee, of Saxonburg watches the making of her wood-fired pizza during the Saxonbur Festival of the Arts, on Sunday, September 8, 2013.

Nice weather and nearly sold-out vendor spots combined to make this year's Saxonburg Festival of the Arts one of the best in recent memory, organizers said.

“I think we've had more people this year than I can remember,” said Maria McCullough, co-chair of the annual event. “I used to come here as a teenager with my mother and I don't remember this many people.”

Sam Andrews, co-director of the Saxonburg Area Artists Cooperative, said more than 800 people walked through the co-op's gallery on Saturday and he expected just as many on Sunday.

The co-op features 15 area artists, including potters, painters and woodworkers. The festival featured an eclectic mix of food vendors, from vegan fare to traditional Italian dishes, and musical performances, an antique tractor display and artist demonstrations.

“It's been a great, great weekend,” Andrews said. “We couldn't have had better weather.”

Rain plagued last year's festival.

The Saxonburg Historical & Restoration Commission sponsors the event, which is in its 28th year.

Pat Foringer of Butler said she attends the festival just about every year. On Sunday she was there with her friend Mindy Gull of Butler, whose sister Lisa Stenn was doing portrait art demonstrations.

“Saxonburg is just a beautiful little city,” Foringer said. “It just makes the whole experience.”

Several people said they were headed directly to the kettle corn stand so they could indulge while browsing.

Lisa Anderson of Butler Township said that was on her list of stops.

“We came out because we like all the homemade arts and crafts,” she said. “It's an especially nice day, so it's great to be outside.”

Artists and vendors said they like the festival because it's a venue for people who wouldn't normally be able to display their work.

“It's an opportunity to share the expertise of the artists and artisans with the public,” said Mark Weleski of Harrison, whose paintings of Springdale and Natrona are so detailed they look like photographs.

A former art teacher in the Deer Lakes School District for 38 years, he said he misses his students and enjoys the opportunity to interact with visitors at the festival.

“We don't do it enough,” Weleski said. “But Saxonburg has been doing this for a long time.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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