NAPPANEE — The Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival continues all weekend with nearly 250 juried artists ready to sell their unique products to visitors regionwide.
“This is our major event of the year,” Amish Acres founder Dick Pletcher said. “People look forward to it.”
The festival began 57 years ago in the downtown area with paintings held up by pins strung across clothesline and has grown into one of the largest in the nation.
Artists and crafters this year come from 35 states including California, New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri, totaling over 150 cities, according to Pletcher.
Sunshine Artists ranked Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival No. 21 of 10,000 festivals based on artist vendor reviews last year.
Banners Plus owner Dick Stolk, of Chesterfield, Missouri, agreed with the assessment by the popular tourist groups.
“It’s one of my top three,” Stolk, a 27-year vendor for the festival, said. “Having a fourth day helps. I think it’s the right time in the season for what I sell.”
Stolk sells handcrafted banners, windsocks, scarves and his new product – windflowers – at festivals all over the country, but he called the Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival one of his favorites.
“For this weekend, this is the best show in the area,” Stolk said. “It’s just as much work to set up for a small show as it is to set up for a big show so I prefer to set up for these big shows.”
The American Bus Association has also named the festival one of its Top 100 Best of the Best in past years.
“This is one of the few, if not only, private festivals of this kind in the country,” Pletcher said.
Vendors competed for $5,000 in cash prices as part of a juried art show Thursday morning. Two Best of show winners are given $1,000 each and inducted into the Hall of Fall at the Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival Blue Ribbon Museum upstairs at the Barn Loft Grill. It was moved from the Nappanee Historical Museum in 2017, where the other 57 past winners’ projects also reside.
Best of Show was divided into two categories. The first was for a two-dimension piece such as a painting, and the other was offered for three-dimensional piece such as sculptures. Other prizes are offered in six different categories.
“Some are making things from scratch, some are taking antique pieces and repurposing them and enhancing them,” Pletcher said. “We have a couple people that are leather crafters, there are sculptors, and lawn art.
The “real buyers” as he calls them, a large handful of festival-goers interested in the purchase of unique works of art, often attend the Thursday show to get first pick at the artistic works on display.
“By Saturday it will be hard to walk through here,” he said. “Our visitors come from everywhere, some from Chicago or Indianapolis, but all parts.”
Pletcher said he expects nearly 60,000 people to come through the gates over the course of the weekend festival.
“I do think this has a positive impact on the retail businesses,” Nappanee Chamber Office Manager Darla Burns said. “I know the restaurants are always really busy with traffic this time of year.”
Prizes will be drawn for guests, too. Over the course of the festival, $7,000 worth of prizes will be drawn, with prizes each day.
Aside from the hundreds of vendors onsite, drawings for patrons and festival food, there will also be four stages of continuous entertainment for each of the four days of the festival, including musical arts, performing arts and children’s entertainment.
“We have a lot of things for kids – marionette shows, and the Whip Guy who’s been on America’s Got Talent, and the Medicine Show Man and swan boats,” Pletcher said. “This is a real family affair.”
The Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival takes place on the Amish Acres’ grounds and continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Historic house tours and farm wagon rides are available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Gate admission is $7 for the general public, $6 for seniors and students 12 through 17, and free for those with an active military ID and children under age 12.