Fall festivals focus on arts in tri-state area

Patrons browse vendor booths during Fishtival in Bellevue, Iowa. The annual celebration will be Sept. 9 this year. PHOTO CREDIT: TH file

Greg Kraft, of Janesville, Wis., admires yard art from JLE Designs at the Galena (Ill.) Country Fair last year. This year’s fair is Oct. 7-8 in Grant Park. PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Gassman/Telegraph Herald

One of the highlights of Platteville Dairy Days is the parade. PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Gassman/Telegraph Herald

Autumn’s arrival means leaves change color, days grow shorter and artwork headlines tri-state area festivals and fairs.

“Dubuque and the tri-state area, including Jo Daviess County and southwest Wisconsin, is such an amazing destination because we have so many activities to see and do,” said Keith Rahe, president and CEO of Travel Dubuque. “Fall is such a great time for us. A lot of destinations, once you get through Labor Day, they pretty much tick down. We don’t. We’re vibrant all the way into November and a lot of that is because of all the different festivals that we have got here during the fall.”

Here is a look at a trio of local fall festivals with arts and crafts components:

Platteville (Wis.) Dairy Days

Friday-Sunday, Sept. 8-10, at Legion Park, 400 Pitt St.

Roberta Buss, executive assistant at the Platteville Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Dairy Days board. Buss said the annual Dairy Days event holds a crafter and vendor fair as part of its celebration.

“Platteville Dairy Days has been a celebration of our community for the past 76 years,” Buss said.

The crafter and vendor fair “gives community members the opportunity to participate in that celebration — both as a vendor or a shopper,” Buss said.

“Anyone that wishes to pay the fee for the booth space is able to sell their items,” Buss said. “The items must be family friendly.”

Buss said this year’s crafter and vendor fair will be located near the event’s live music, carnival and fair food areas.

“In addition to having the opportunity to sell their items at the fair, craftspeople are also invited to enter their items in the Dairy Days exhibit judging,” Buss said.

The exhibit judging features both junior and open (adult) categories and more than 25 categories.

“The items are judged and awarded a ribbon and cash premium according to their placing,” Buss said.


Saturday, Sept. 9, along the riverfront in Bellevue, Iowa.

An annual celebration of the arts along Bellevue’s riverfront features a new element this fall: a grant-supported concert.

“What we are is an artistic celebration along the Mississippi,” said event organizer Dave Eischeid, of the Bellevue Arts Council.

About 20 artists and artisans will display their work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9. The items will include ceramics, paintings, jewelry, metalsmithing, woodworking and more.

The event also features children’s arts activities, and a mermaid will make an appearance at lunchtime.

“We’re doing something new this year — a free concert,” Eischeid said.

Supported by a grant from the Jackson County Area Tourism Association, the concert will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. in the space between River Ridge Brewing and Great River Gallery at 309 S. Riverview St.

“We have two acts,” said Deanna Cook, an organizer of the concert. “Lily Stella Maris, from the Galena area, will perform first. Then we have Flash in a Pan, a band from the Iowa City area.”

Both acts perform roots music.

Galena (Ill.) Country Fair

Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 7-8, at Grant Park, 625 Park Ave.

“Fall is the perfect time of year and there’s nothing better than coming to Galena during Columbus Day weekend,” said Ed Bochniak, chairman of the fair’s organizing committee.

The event combines arts and crafts vendors, food, music and other activities. The event routinely draws more than 20,000 people during its two-day run.

Entry is a suggested $5 donation at the gate with a portion of admission and other proceeds benefitting local nonprofit groups through grant funding.

“Art is the major component of drawing people (to the fair) every year,” Bochniak said. “We’ve seen that our vendors have a true following. People will follow them to different exhibits and events that they are doing.”

Bochniak said organizers require that items for sale be homemade and preferably unique. He said the Galena fair takes pride in the artworks on display.

“We still do a juried fair,” he said. “Every year we have professional people — artists or other craftspeople — who judge the vendors and we do give out awards.”

Bochniak said the fair regularly featured about 150 vendors before the pandemic. There was no fair held in 2020, and post-pandemic fairs in 2021 and 2022 drew about 110 vendors.

“This year, we already have 125 vendors signed and 35 of those are brand-new vendors,” Bochniak said. “We’re very excited.”

Erik Hogstrom writes for the Telegraph Herald.

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