ELKHART — At Elkhart’s Rhapsody in Green Festival, Juan Guillen stood behind a table lined with brightly-colored wrestling masks. Four green masks modeled after Ninja Turtles grinned at passersby next to a blue mask with wings and a red-and-white “A” for Captain America.
Juan Guillen uses American superheroes to help kids relate to the heroes he grew up with — luchadores, lucha libre wrestlers.
“Like Nacho Libre, have you seen that movie?” he says, pointing to a blue and red mask styled like actor Jack Black’s.
Guillen’s organization, Mucha Lucha Indiana, promotes Mexican wrestling in Indiana. He practices the sport himself, he said, and trains children as well.
By training them in lucha libre, he’s giving kids something to do to stay out of trouble, while teaching them about a Mexican tradition.
He and his family make the masks, some of which he sells to professional or semi-pro wrestlers. Others, like the Wolverine and Flash masks also arranged on the table, he makes to adapt American superheroes to lucha libre traditions.
“We’re trying to relate the kids to what now, in America, they see as superheroes,” he said.
Though some of the Rhapsody in Green Festival seems like a preview of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair — same food vendors, similar kid-friendly trinkets and jewelry sold along the trail through Island Park as in the fairground’s Commercial Buildings — the festival also gave local artists a chance to show off their craft.
Local artist Leonard Penrod is a golf ball sculptor.
He started small — making ants from recycled, painted golf balls, held together with a steel pin. Now he has about 55 characters, he says, and a handful of customers who collect new ones.
“We come up with something new at every show,” he said.
At the Rhapsody in Green festival, he debuted Dallas Cowboys players made from golf balls and pipe cleaners. He started making football players when people requested the ants, made for pond decorations, in their favorite team’s colors.
He also has a line of Christmas and Halloween characters, plus side characters like Olaf from “Frozen.”
“I can’t believe how popular they were before I started making all this stuff,” he said, gesturing to the line of superheroes, angels, even horses made from golf balls. The decorations were popular even when he was only making ants and inchworms.
“I do it in — I used to say spare time — but now it’s a full-time job,” Penrod said.
The festival, artists, music, food and all, continues Saturday noon to midnight and Sunday noon to 8 p.m. Admission is $1 after 5 p.m.
have Facebook pages where they advertise their work and get in touch with customers when they’re not at festivals.