NAPPANEE — Amish Acres is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but the Arts & Crafts Festival precludes its location by seven years. It began as Pletcher’s Furniture Village Arts Festival in downtown Nappanee.
“In those seven years downtown it evolved from a clothesline watercolor painting (exhibit and sale) to what it is now,” founder Richard “Dick” Pletcher said.
Within a year, he said, visitors began asking for Amish-related products, so they started having booths with vendors selling smoked hams, jams, hex signs and Amish hats for example.
And within three years, “We had every alley downtown filled,” Pletcher said.
He said they started offering buggy rides and countryside tours, too.
“All that happened before the farm became available and Amish Acres a reality, so it gave us confidence there was a demand for what we wanted to do here,” he said.
Now, the annual summer arts and crafts festival is billed as one of the premier arts festivals in the country and will have approximately 200 vendors from 27 states and 139 cities, Pletcher said.
Some new artists this year include oil painter Jim Clements from El Dorado, Kansas; Tara Gordon an “apparel enhancer” from Indianapolis, whose items are all related to Indiana; and Steve Miller, a leather engraver from Arizona.
Pletcher said they haven’t had a leather engraver since the previous guy who was there for 25 years became ill.
He said Karen Kennedy from Los Angeles, California, is returning after a 10-year absence and she makes children’s chalk board boxes.
Besides all the unique arts and crafts to browse and shop, there’s also plenty of old-fashioned entertainment at the festival. Stephen’s Puppets will be introducing “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a new marionette show at Amish Acres.
“I believe this will be the first place it’ll ever be shown,” Pletcher said.
A new dance studio — Expression Dance from Bremen — will perform this year. The kids from the two acting camps will sing Friday, and each year, actors from the current Round Barn Theatre show also come out to the festival grounds and entertain. This year’s show is “Big River — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Living historians and reenactors Hawk and Jill Van Lew will be returning to the festival this year. Hawk will take the audience on a journey through the history of tomahawks. Dressed in an 1830s fur trader outfit, Hawk will demonstrate how to throw tomahawks and knives and even gives attendees a chance to try. Their log cabin is located across the lane by the blacksmith shop. Hawk and Jill were married in 2008 in a Civil War-era wedding. Hawk was adopted into the Lakota-Sioux tribe in Wyoming and has won blue ribbons at knife and tomahawk throwing competitions.
In addition to the three entertainment stages, there’ll also be strolling performers, including barbershop quartets and jugglers.
FOOD AND MORE
The festival will have lots of choices for hungry attendees — kettle corn, donkey’s ears, ice cream and more.
New this year are macaroni and cheese bites and a salted caramel and cinnamon roll shake. Root beer floats will be served outside this year, Pletcher said.
“We’re going to have an interesting flavor for the mashed potatoes we serve with our popular steak tips,” he said.
The first major change in the marketplace’s layout this year will result in more corner booths and fewer lines.
In celebration of Amish Acre’s 50th anniversary, there will be $5 specials in all the Amish Acre shops all year long. For example, in the soda shop it’ll be two cones for $5, a gift shop will have a horseshoe keychain for $5, and the bakery will have strudel for $5.
They’ll offer two tickets to “Plain and Fancy” for $50 for any performance, and for any Thursday show, the tickets will be two for $50. A commemorative quilt in the iconic windmill design will be raffled off this year. A commemorative sculpture in the shape of a number 50 was created for this year out of old farm equipment and handsaws.
In the hallway between the Round Barn Theatre and the Greeting Barn, there’s a historical display of Amish Acres memorabilia, including original notes by Pletcher written in 1968 and a 1969 master plan, which came to fruition, Pletcher said.
Shopping, entertainment, food and history all wrapped into one weekend at Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: 57th annual Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival
WHEN: Aug. 1-4
WHERE: Amish Acres, 1600 W. Market St., Nappanee
COST: Admission costs $7 for adults, $6 for seniors (60 and older) and children 12-17, free for children 12 and younger. Groups of 20-40 cost $6 per person, with a driver and leader admitted free of charge. Groups of 41 or more cost $5 per person, with a driver and leader per coach admitted free of charge. Two-day passes cost $12. Four-day passes cost $20, with a signature ID required each day.
For more information, visit amishacres.com.