In Mystic, a perfect day for art at the Outdoor Art Festival

In Mystic, a perfect day for art at the Outdoor Art Festival


MYSTIC — An overcast sky and cool temperatures brought out a host of residents and summer visitors Saturday to the 60th annual Mystic Outdoor Festival. It was a welcome change after last year’s scalding heat and high humidity, which scared the crowds away, said Paul Inguanti, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 1943, who was exhorting passers-by to dine at the group’s tent on chowder, chili and cheese dogs, clam fritters and french fries.

“Man, last year with the heat, you could look all the way down to the flagpole and there wasn’t a soul on the sidewalk — it was so hot, we sold 500 waters,” he said. Inguanti said the Knights had been selling food at the festival for about 25 years. Their spot is along East Main Street, next to St. Patrick Church.

“The hotdogs are Saugy Hotdogs. They’re made within 20 miles of here in Rhode Island; the sausage is from Westerly Packing so everything’s local,” he said, “After we pay all our bills, our profits go to charities — we support the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, Care Net, the Special Olympics, you name it.”

Right across from the KCs was the tent of Kristen Dahms, an artist from Ballston Lake, N.Y., who won first place in the festival’s mixed media category. Dahms said last year was her first time showing at the festival and even with the heat she did well enough to want to come back.

She was working on a piece that contained a sketch of an old-fashioned propeller airplane surrounded by torn pieces of a varied patterned papers. “I’m a watercolor artist with a little bit of mixed media, which is nontraditional,” she said. “In the watercolor paintings, I usually put down patterned paper and then create patterns and images all over; in this one it’s a plane and clouds, but I hide stuff in them, so I always say, ‘Take a closer look.’”

She said she likes to add imagery of “things that fit the story,” such as propellers for her aviation pieces,

Another award winner, in a different contest, was Mike Harden, of Norwalk, who was sitting on the steps at the side of his food truck, Lobstercraft. Harden, known as Captain Mike, recently won a national award through Flavored Nation, which is part of the Food Network, for creating the No. 1 lobster roll in the country.

“Flavored Nation polled the state and then they showed up at the truck one day with a film crew and said we’d won,” he said. “They’re bringing me out St. Louis in August to represent the Connecticut state sandwich in a big expo out there.”

He became a commercial lobsterman after retiring from a career as a toy designer in Hong Kong, and moved to Norwalk where he began to observe the lobster boats from his house on the shore. “I watched the boats for a while and then I started working on one and then I made the crazy decision to buy a lobster boat and 1,600 traps — that was in 2001,” he said.

After the die-off of Long Island Sound lobsters, Harden followed the suggestion of his wife, Valerie Harden, and started a food truck six years ago. Now he runs two of them, with several family members helping out. “We go through about 800 lobsters per week, that’s 1,600 claws,” he said. “We get the lobsters out deep now, past Montauk, and we also buy lobster as locally as we can in Rhode Island and Connecticut.”

The festival is a juried show showcasing more than 230 traditional and contemporary artists and artisans. By the afternoon, Peggy Roberts, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, which runs the festival, said she noticed many visitors carrying purchased items, indicating strong sales.

“I’ve had more artists say to me that this is actually perfect weather because it’s not so sunny that people want to be at the beach. It’s cool, it’s comfortable — it’s perfect weather for the festival… there’s no point in sitting on the beach, right?”

Winning artists

The festival jury and the Chamber announced the winning artists from this year’s event on Saturday afternoon. The artists will be honored at an awards breakfast Sunday at 8 a.m. at the Mystic Arts Center, sponsored by Courtyard Gallery, Sift Bake Shop, and Dave’s Coffee.

Best in Show: Russ Kramer, Oil

Robert Brackman Award, Lloyd Garrison, oil; Beonne Beronda Award, Lydia Schrader, watercolors; Marion Tetlow Award, John Pattenden, graphics; Milton Baline Award Block, Eugene Smith, watercolors; and Del-Bouree Bach Working Artist Award, James Millar, wood.

First place award for acrylics, John Mansueto; graphics, Anastasia Alexandrin; mixed media, Kristen Dahms; oils, Jihong Shi; pastels, Roxane Chardon; photography, David Micelotta; sculpture, Kimberly Irons; watercolors, Michael Davidoff.

Fine crafts

Teddy Goberis Award for Excellence in Ceramics, Susan Toppin; Louise Forest Gibson Prize, Andrew Wender, ceramics; Mabel Kingsbury Fentress Prize, Julia Britell, jewelry; Joseph Gualtieri Prize, Liza Abelson, glass; Alice Clark Hubbard Prize, Rebecca Grills, glass

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