CROWN POINT | Weather was a challenge on the opening day of the 39th annual Arts and Crafts Festival and Taste of the Region around the Old Lake County Courthouse.
Strong shifting winds toppled some signs and displays as vendors set up Friday morning along Main Street.
Later in the afternoon, those winds brought in a line of thunderstorms with lots of lightning and intermittent downpours.
But, the festive spirit that has made this a popular event couldn’t be dampened.
The Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce-sponsored festival features 27 food vendors and 53 arts and crafts booths. This is the second year the two events have been combined.
The beer garden, a kids’ area and live musical entertainment also are part of the fun. On Friday evening, the group Wiseguys provided the entertainment.
Asparagus Restaurant in Merrillville made its first appearance at the festival, offering such cuisine as Thai chicken satay, spicy lemongrass beef, Wasabi curry-crusted lamb chops and Phnom Penh prawns. Owner and head chef Tammy Pham created the menu items on a grill set up next to the tented booth.
Jerome Kucharski, of St. John’s Pierogi Square, is chairing the event.
“We were here last year and we were winner of the best unique dish, buffalo chicken pierogi,” he said.
This year’s menu includes stuffed cabbage, sour cream/cream cheese meatballs and four flavors of pierogis.
“We do some really unique dishes. Anything I can fit in a pierogi,” Kucharski said.
A long-time vendor at the arts and crafts festival, Becky Morton, of Glenwood, Ill. displayed her original puppets, goose clothing and crafts. Known as The Puppet Lady, Morton makes original puppet characters that range from a huge vulture to small animals and amphibians.
“I was given permission by Jim Henson to create Muppet-like characters,” said Morton, who started her craft business in 1973.
One early visitor to the festival, 22-month old Isabella Michalesko, of St. John, was fascinated by Morton’s displays, exclaiming “hockey” and “goose” when she say a plaster goose wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey.
“Yes, you like hockey,” said Isabella’s mom, Beth Michalesko. “We came to get her some shoes at the Hub Bootery and saw this. We’ll be back later for dinner.”
Two sisters, and admitted best friends, said they never miss the Arts and Crafts Festival.
“It’s small enough so you don’t get trampled,” said Barbara Davies, of Riverdale, Ill.
Vivien Bryar, of Oak Forest, agreed.
“It’s better this year because everything is on the street instead of on the lawn of the courthouse,” Bryar said. “There are more places to sit at the picnic tables.”
The festival and taste open at 11 a.m. today. The beer garden features entertainment from 11 to 6 p.m. Then at 6:30 p.m., Muddsharks take to the stage.