Arts & Culture
3:13 pm
Mon October 20, 2003

Kentuck Art Festival Draws Thousands

Northport, AL – This year's Kentuck Festival of the Arts had a little something for everyone (sound- horn blowing/crowd NS) like these children playing at the Musical Petting Zoo. They're taking turns trying to play different instruments, including the French horn, the violin and other instuments. The zoo ... and the Festival ... were big hits this year. The more than 300 exhibit booths were crowded with people eager to see, and buy, some of the country's best folk arts and crafts.
The crowd wanders past the booths, where some artists are busy at work. John Henry Toney (Toe-nee) of Sellers sits quietly painting what he describes as a wanna-be movie star and her pet bobcat. He's wearing a colorful hand-painted fishing cap with a 50-dollar price tag on it. He says business was good this year, but his favorite thing has easily been the people.
"All the people are just as kind and nice and loving and quiet as they can be. I get along with everybody and everybody seems to appreciate my work, you know what I'm saying? But if people come by and don't want to buy something, they'll just look and give you a smile. That means something when a person gives you a smile. A lot of people don't believe that," says Toney.
Toney says art is his life ... so much even that he got fired from his last job because he couldn't stop drawing. It's a passion evident throughout the Kentuck Festival, which includes everything from bird houses and stained glass, to giant metal flowers and human faces shaped from melted plastic buckets. Each of the 300 exhibits is wildly different, and nearly all are crowded.
Northport artist Justin Dobbs Robinson says it's been another good festival.
"It think it's been a great year for everybody. It was really crowd and a good quality of people always come to Kentuck. They love are and appreciate it," says Robinson.
Robinson says he grew up in the country and currently enjoys drawing farm scenes scenes that include abstract animal characters intently peering from the canvas.
"I do it (art) because I just have figured at this point it's what I'm supposed to do. I'm a self taught painter. I went to school for advertising, but obviously didn't end up doing that! (laughs) But this is my life. It's what I do every day," says Robinson.
Local artists will soon have new facilities where they can practice their craft. The Kentuck Museum Association has announced a 1-point-7 million dollar expansion of the Kentuck Art Center in downtown Northport. Board of Directors vice President Jamie Johnson
"We should be able to accommodate everything from lecture groups to demonstration and performance areas. We certainly want to improve our exhibition spaces downtown. They're fairly limited right now, but over time we hope they will get larger so they can draw crowds like today over the whole year," says Johnson.
Work on the first stage in the expansion could begin within a year with completion in 3 to 5 years. Meanwhile, the Kentuck Festival of the Arts will likely also continue to grow. Festival officials estimate this year drew one of the biggest crowds ever. They also say Festival enjoyed its highest ever level of community sponsorship.
The Kentuck Festival is held one weekend each year in mid October. The Kentuck Museum in downtown Northport is open year around to the public.