27th annual Moab Arts Festival

Moab resident Kara Dohrenwend (right) purchased a piece of handmade pottery from Moab potter Joanne Savoi (left) during last year’s arts festival. The 2019 Moab Arts Festival is on May 25 and 26. [Photo by Murice D. Miller / Moab Sun News]

Moab residents may want to consider staying in town Memorial Day weekend with something as fun as the Moab Arts Festival taking place on Saturday and Sunday, May 25 and 26.

The 27th annual arts festival at Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West, will feature live music both Saturday and Sunday, and more than a hundred regional artists exhibiting and selling their work, including furniture, fine art, jewelry, pottery, fiber artwork and a new category of upcycled art. Many of the artists have a following of fans and return year after year.

Moab potter Joanne Savoie is one of the featured artists. Her work is reminiscent of the area’s geology. You see it in the salt and pepper shakers sculpted in the shape of rocks that nestle together. Or the small boxes with lids in the shape of stones. Some of her pieces have live plants growing in them.

“I’m inspired by the rocks, the Canyonlands, exposed cliffs — all that inspires my designs,” Savoie said, who creates both “functional and whimsical” pieces.

“I try and make things that will appeal as gifts,” she said. “I’m excited about the two days in the park. It’s very, very fun.”

The Moab Arts Festival includes an array of activities to entertain children and stir their creativity. There are pony rides on Saturday, courtesy of Canyonlands Rodeo, as well as puppet-making, tie-dying and other fun things to do both days.

Saturday’s activities begin at 10 a.m. and Moab magician Rick Boretti will perform at the kid’s tent at 11 a.m. Unstructured activities like hula-hooping and bubble-making will also be going on both Saturday and Sunday.

For people of all ages there is live theater in the park performed by the Orem, Utah-based Grassroots Shakespeare Company, a nonprofit organization that promotes the famous bard’s works in productions statewide.

The Shakespeare company’s rendition of Christopher Clark’s “The Little Mermaid” will be performed on Saturday, and “Henry the Fourth” will take place Sunday, both at 4 p.m. The company brings and sets up its own stage in the park about an hour before the show.

“We pick shows that are exciting and engaging for our summer tour,” artistic director Nick Grossaint said. “What Grassroots (Shakespeare Company) is attempting to do is do Shakespeare like Shakespeare would have done. Our performances are based on original practices.”

For example, there is no director and no designer and it’s all created by the cast, as in Shakespeare’s era. Outdoor performances were also typical of Shakespeare’s time when small wooden platforms were built on the ground.

The production is “direct address Shakespeare,” said Grossaint, which means that the cast talks to the audience and the audience responds.

The story is being told to the audience, based on the storytelling manner of that era, he said. There are 10 actors and four musicians who perform throughout the show.

“It’s interactive; it’s exciting,” Grossaint said. “It’s very family-friendly. It’s pretty magical.”

Festival attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair to watch the theater or to listen to the various local musicians’ performances, such as the drumming group Moab Taiko Dan, Dave Steward Jazz Quartet and Quicksand Soup.

With plenty of food vendors from which to choose, you might want to stay for lunch or dinner. There will be wood-fired pizza, Greek food, ice cream, fresh-squeezed juices and more. Moab Brewery, Castle Creek Winery and Spanish Valley Vineyards will be selling locally made brews and wines in the wine and beer garden.

Moab Arts Festival Executive Director Theresa King founded the event decades ago after a group of artists sought assistance in creating an event to showcase and sell their artwork.

“I just thought it’s time to have an arts festival,” King said. “What’s special about this year, we’re going to have a lot of live Moab music all day Saturday and Sunday.”

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