The Bellevue Festival of the Arts ran on July 29, 30 and 31 in downtown Bellevue. The Festival of the Arts “is a juried arts and crafts fair” and “continues to support a variety of non-profits with proceeds from the festival. Celebrating its 32nd year in 2016, the festival features 200 of the most talented and popular artisans, musicians and crafts people from the Northwest and beyond.”
For the weekend, downtown Bellevue turns into a sea of tents and booths with arts, crafts, food and music for attendees to enjoy. The Festival of the Arts is held alongside two other fairs in Bellevue, Bellevue Art Museum’s ARTSfair and the 6th Street fair.
Free to the public, anybody could come and take in all the sights, sounds and smells that have become a fixture of the Bellevue summer. Painters, sculptors, jewelers and more were everywhere, plying their wares to the crowd.
While the main goal of the artists was direct sales, selling pieces directly to the public, networking and building relationships is a big part of the festival. Whether it was getting people interested in commission work, meeting prior customers who want to get new pieces or even meeting with gallery owners looking for artists to feature, festivals like these are lucrative in many ways for the participants.
Artists spoke very highly of the festival, with many saying it’s their favorite festival of the year. Not only are the people in Bellevue the sort of demographic many artists are going for, but the festival organizers make things easy for the vendors.
Melissa Schmidt from Missouri who works primarily in Pyrex glass praised the security at the festival as well as booth-sitters, volunteers who watch over booths to relieve the artists while they use bathrooms or take a break. Vendors are also furnished with water and have access to a service tent if needed to help make the vendors comfortable and cool in the sun.
While some vendors only travel around the northwest, many go across the country, to Arizona, Texas and Florida. Seattle-based artists were able to feature Northwest-inspired pieces, like Tim Winstrom of Anacortes. With surreal themes of nature and animals taking over civilization, Starbucks and the Space Needle are featured, as are orcas. When in Las Vegas, paintings with In-N-Out burgers sell better and in Seattle, Dick’s is a favorite.
In addition to all the arts and crafts, there was plenty of food and drink all around the festival. Gyros, carnival food, Asian food, barbecue and food trucks packed into the street going through Bellevue Square as well as a smattering of food vendors near World Market. Live music was also featured by World Market and a location inside Bellevue Square for those wanting to take in the air conditioning.
Bellevue Police had a strong presence, directing traffic and patrolling the area as well as doing public outreach. A command trailer was brought in next to the QFC where police had logistical support and the Bellevue Police Foundation was on hand to raise funds and awareness. A police motorcycle was set up where kids could get their picture taken riding it. This year, however, had a police BearCat vehicle on standby with two heavily-outfitted policemen who, given recent events in Europe and the U.S., were there “just in case.”
The Bellevue Festival of Arts is held on the last weekend of July, the next one will be on July 28, 29 and 30 in 2017. Information on the festivals in Bellevue can be found at bellevuefest.org.