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Saluda Art Festival rings up sales

Life mirrors art in a winter photo of Saluda with the town in the background. The photography is from the studio of Jean Jacques and Sue Benoist in Mill Spring. Life mirrors art in a winter photo of Saluda with the town in the background. The photography is from the studio of Jean Jacques and Sue Benoist in Mill Spring.

SALUDA — Sara Bell served a steady stream of customers, selling beer and bottled water in front of her river guiding business, Green River Adventures.

"This is the biggest art festival we've had, the most amount of artists," she said. "There's a group of volunteers who work their tail off on it."
SalArtWardsWard's Grill was packed.One of those workers would be Cathy Jackson, a Saluda Realtor and one of the leaders of the Saluda Business Association, which created the Saluda Art Festival nine years ago. She stood on Saluda's famous railroad tracks and pronounced all she surveyed "marvelous."
"I don't know how you judge these things but as far as attendance, it's been a consistent flow since we opened at 10 and people are buying things," she said. "All the artists seem very pleased with what's going on."
Now in their ninth year, the volunteer festival organizers "have learned everything to do wrong and everything to do right," Jackson said. "Historically, what the retailers will tell you is it's their best sales day of the year, even including Coon Dog Day." Saluda's most famous festival, a one-day celebration of the baying hound, attracts thousands of visitors on Fourth of July weekend but "they're not shoppers."
At Ward's Grill, every table and bar stool was filled and waitresses wound their way around serving burgers — at Ward's the burger is a classic — and fries and homemade grilled pimento cheese sandwiches to hungry art browsers.
Watercolor artist Susan Crouch of Lexington gave the festival a thumbs up.
"It seems like it's run very well," she said. "The artist amenities are nice. They give you a big gift bag full of goodies." She grabbed it and looked inside. "It has a chocolate chip cookie, an umbrella, water, just a lot of good stuff."
Crouch expects to set up her booth of watercolor paintings of flowers at around 20 festivals this year, and this was the first time she had visited Saluda.
"I think it's really a nice little town," she said. "We've just heard good things about it. I'm looking forward to walking around."

SalArtBoyTrace Thew, with his mom Sarah, enjoyed an ice cone, as every pirate should. Sarah and Tim Thew, of Hendersonville, enjoyed the festival.
Mort Farris, who was serving beer at Thompson's upstairs back deck just after noon, was pleased with the festival and the crowds.

 

"We've got a lot of people coming into the store visiting for the first time," said Farris, a meat cutter at Thompson's. "It's a beautiful day, great day, lots of excitement. I could barely sleep last night. Everybody I've talked to  so far said they were having fun."