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Visitors Flock to Wickford For All The 'Pretty Stuff To See'

The 49th annual Wickford Art Festival showcased local artists and vendors all weekend.

Sunny, warm weather on a summer weekend usually means huge crowds heading through North Kingstown on their way to the beaches. This weekend, those crowds trained their sites on Wickford Village for the .

Tarp tents lined both Main Street and Brown Street, showcasing all different types of art from blown glass bowls to traditional oil paintings. It was hard for many revelers to decide where to start. The festival truly had everything. Patrons not only founds fine arts, but also jewelry, music and, of course, food.

The event draws thousands every year to the tiny village, and 2011 was no exception. Despite all of the commotion of the festival, Wickford residents and business owners were accommodating to the artists and tourists.

“[The festival] is important to Wickford,” said longtime Wickford resident Bob “the Barber” Sciola. “I don’t think John Hauser knew what he was getting himself into when he hung a couple of paintings outside." Hauser, he explained, was one of the early participating artists who hung his work outside of what is now the Book Garden, on the corner of Brown and Main Streets. Sciola recalls like it was yesterday. “I don’t think [they] knew it would evolve into this.”

The festival is a place of gathering for art lovers, curious tourists and children alike. When asked why she likes coming to the festival, 8-year-old Madison Gonya says, “Because there’s all different pretty stuff to see.”

Indeed there was. Starting at the end of Brown Street, where the tents began to line the street just beyond the Hussey Bridge, was Madison Latimer. Latimer is best known for her vibrant paintings of speckled guinea foul and roosters. Latimer’s paintings, as she describes, “capture the joys of life.” The images she paints come from what she sees on the South Carolina farm where she lives. From lovebirds to chickens, Latimer’s booth is full of vibrant colors and smiling birds.

Down Brown Street, in front of Wickford Village Antiques, was the booth of Jamestown resident Jillian Barber. Barber, who grew up in Rhode Island, is an award-winning sculptor and photographer. Perhaps her most well known works are her fantasy masks and lacy fish and sea creatures. Her clay sculptures on display for the festival include brightly colored fish, seahorses, turtles and mermaids. Among these pieces are some of her fantasy masks, including one that serves as a hanging fountain.

On the other end of the art spectrum was Caesar Villalobo of Inca Son, a Peruvian musical group. Villalobo entertained the masses with live music on his pan flute. His booth, along the greenway next to St. Paul’s Parish House, was full of the instruments and music of Peru. Peruvian musical instruments such as the pan flute and the ocarina were available for purchase as well as the CDs of Inca Son.

“These are the instruments of his native land,” said Marianne Ruggiero, the group’s manager. Inca Son was discovered more than 20 years ago in Boston, earning worldwide acclaim for their music of the Andes. 

All of the walking on Brown Street and Main Street can make festivalgoers hungry. Not to worry — there were plenty of options for meals. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located on Main Street, served up a New England feast at the St. Paul’s Parish House, including their festival favorite clam cakes and clam chowder, along with lobster rolls. Down the road, the First Baptist Church served backyard favorites like hotdogs and hamburgers, and food trucks next to the Sovereign Bank on Brown Street offered doughboys, French fries, Philly cheesesteaks, and other festival food favorites.

And what's a street festival without some decadent desserts? The Inside Scoop served ice cream both inside the Wickford Marketplace and outside in the market parking lot. Festival sponsor Webster Bank  also handed out free ice cream sandwiches and popsicles to keep revelers cool.

As the sun set over Wickford Harbor Sunday night, the crowds had dissipated and the streets were quiet, except for the roar of trash trucks. While the small village is unlikely to experience such an onslaught of visitors until next year's festival, it doesn't exactly turn into a sleepy hamlet either, as its restaurants, galleries and unique shops continue to draw visitors through the summer.

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