By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO - The early spring weather cooperated nearly perfectly with Salado planners and festival-goers Saturday with mild temperatures and sunshine.
The temperatures seemed to be thawing out pocketbooks, too.
At the 10th annual Salado Wildflower Art Show, a fundraiser for the Chamber of Commerce, chamber president Joni Lange called tourism director Debbie Charbonneau when she had to be away a little while and wanted to know whether the steady stream of people were carrying packages as they left, and the answer was affirmative. "It's a good crowd, and people are buying," Charbonneau said.
Lange said the show, at the Salado Civic Center, had 40 vendors, 22 of them new this year.
The show featured a wide variety of arts and crafts including jewelry, stained glass ornaments, photographs and paintings, mostly with Texan subjects like old forts and missions and bluebonnets.
One unusual display by Corner Collectibles of Flat, between Temple and Gatesville, featured yard art made from scrap metal, much of it rusty. Owner Pam Wolff said she started working with beanie babies years ago before finding an artisan in Mexico who she could furnish with patterns to make facsimiles of bicycles, railroad engines and other things that look nostalgic even as they're created.
"There are people all over Mexico who do things like this," she said. "We've been making things together for eight years."
Ernest "Buddy" Roach and his wife Diane, with D.R.'s Rock Candles of Waco, featured oil lamps made from slate, granite, sandstone and other kinds of rocks. A dish to hold the oil fits in the bottom of flat stones with wicks protruding through the tops, and circular carved stones the size of votives make translucent "candles" that never burn down. The oils also come in different scents. Some devices are fitted with globes for outdoor use.
Roach, a retired construction contractor, said a friend showed him how to make the ornaments, and he and his wife now sell at 20 to 25 shows a year. This is their second year at the Wildflower Show. "It's a hobby, just a way to have fun and meet people," he said.
Steve Martin, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce in Duncanville, one of the southern suburbs of Dallas, said he and his wife and two other couples just wanted to go somewhere this weekend and saw the festival advertised. He was also shopping for ideas for his own town's aggressive growth ambitions.
"We're at the intersection of U.S. 67 and Interstate 20, and we're looking for ways to draw people off both highways and into town," he said. "I've watched Salado growing for several years. It seems now you can stop anywhere along Interstate 35 and find something to catch your eye, and Salado is also in the position of attracting people off the highway, like we are. They do a really good job of it."
Just two blocks north of the Civic Center, June Ritterbusch was producing the inaugural Texas Wine and Rogue Art Festival on the grounds of her Salado Wine Seller, showcasing about 20 Texas vintners and artists who specialize in abstract and impressionist work and other techniques without such a strong regional theme. She got a $10,000 grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture to promote the wine show, which featured tastings and sales. The Range of Salado provided food, and various artists provided live music part of the time.
Ritterbusch usually displays art for sale at the Wine Seller, which is open seven days a week. Meanwhile, she also grows grapes on the land with plans to start making wine herself.
She has been sending Chardonnay grapes to her friend Evan McKibben of the Red Caboose winery at Meridian to be turned into wine she can sell. He displayed a 2009 bottle and said, "It's distinctive. It has a green-apple taste to it."
Rick Naber of the Flat Creek Vineyard & Winery at Marble Falls said, "Shows like this are some of the best things going. They're an inexpensive way to market and to introduce your product to lots of people."
Ritterbusch meets vintners through the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and meets a lot of artists who hear of the styles she displays and call her. She calls her show "rogue" because "Texas wineries are rogue entrepreneurs" and "I want to attract a different type of artist."
Robbie Ortiz of New Braunfels displayed a large number of abstract representations of faces. Other artists focused on modern impressionism. Jill and Johnny Shipman, who own Stone Creek Settlement in Salado, displayed distinctive jewelry, much of it made with copper and natural stone as well as silver.
The village had a number of other events over the weekend including the 33rd annual Packard auto show at the Stagecoach Inn and the Salado Fire Department's Smokin' Spokes bicycle run.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557. Follow him on Twitter at KDHbusiness.