Saturday festivals bring crowds to York City
Kimberlyn Bloise put the coffee mug to her lips and blew, creating a smooth glissando with every shift of her fingers.
Bloise is a sculptor who makes practical and decorative pottery items that double as musical instruments. The mug, for example, has a hollow handle, so if you blow over the one wide hole — "like blowing on a bottle," she said — you can put your fingers over one or more of the other few smaller holes to change the pitch.
The Pittsburgh-based Bloise, who runs Kimberlyn Bloise Musical Ceramics, was one of dozens of vendors peddling their wares along the York County Heritage Rail Trail in the area of West Market and West King streets Saturday in York City, where the Yorkfest Fine Arts Festival and the Cigar Box Guitar Festival brought big crowds during the hot afternoon.
Under the natural canopy of trees along the rail trail and under a canvas canopy for herself and her pottery, Bloise tootled away on one of her mugs, demonstrating, much like many of the other artists and craftspeople, why the throngs of people walking by should stop and check her stuff out.
She said she'd started off making pots and then moved to making musical instruments. After all, she'd grown up playing the saxophone and guitar, she said.
"But I missed making functional stuff, so I put them together," she said.
She said it's pretty much impossible to tune them all to the same absolute pitch — meaning it's not going to fit with the notes on your piano, probably — but the mugs and other items are designed to be in tune with themselves. That is, the three or four recorder-sounding notes it plays are pretty close to the same intervals apart, she said.
A block north up the rail trail, Parliament Arts Organization executive director Alex Dwyer painted kids' faces. The head of the arts organization with a gallery at 116 E. King St. pointed out a few black cars parked randomly around the edges of the trail, which was also lined with a few food trucks, info booths for city organizations and historical re-enactors.
The cars started out black at least; by mid-afternoon, they were all covered with chalk, as they were supposed to be. Dwyer said the Parliament had worked with Gurreri Motors, 100 E. Princess St., to get the four cars and then paint them with homemade chalkboard paint for that purpose.
She'd gotten the idea from going to the Artscape festival in Baltimore, an event that in part featured cars chalked on by local artists. She loved the idea but wanted to take a more populist approach.
"How do we do this in a way that can kind of be more interactive for everyone?" she said the Parliament folks wondered. They decided to just let everyone have their fun drawing on the cars.
Another block northeast of the Parliament's creekside station, several artists drew large chalk pictures on the ground. Nathan Bupp, a York native who recently moved across the river to Lancaster, sat on an overturned bucket next to his creation, a giant version of Grant Wood's iconic painting "American Gothic" — but, instead of featuring a dour old Midwestern couple, he replaced their heads with those of a dog and a cat.
That's kind of his thing, Bupp said — much of his art features people replaced by animals.
"It forces people to look at it," he said.
Cigar Box Guitar: Directly abutting Yorkfest was a separate event, the seventh annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival, which twanged away outside The York Emporium bookstore. Three- and four-stringed, electrically rigged DIY-style guitars fashioned out of gasoline cans, washboards and the odd bedpan — those were the ones that served as something of an upright bass — with necks attached to them were for sale. On stage toward the back of the parking lot, someone launched into a cigar-box rendition of John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road."
The cigar box guitar's low-fi sound is distinctive, but it really can sound like an electric guitar — if you weren't paying attention, it might not have struck you that the guy on stage wasn't playing an old Fender.
"I'm pretty amazed at the sounds they get out of them," said Manchester resident Randy Reinhold, who was at the festival for the first time.
Students: Quite a few York College students, having just moved back to York within the past couple of days, wandered around both festivals.
Juniors Jim Sharkey and Liam Egan, both from the Philadelphia area, led a group of younger college students around town. They both said they'd come to enjoy the sights and activities their college town had to offer and were happy to be bringing the underclassmen to the likes of Yorkfest and Central Market on Saturday.
"The whole goal of this is to strengthen ties between York College and York City," Egan said.
And, Sharkey reasoned, it must be going pretty well if the city's further investing money in the effort to make the 15-minute walk up to the downtown area nicer.
"I mean, they just made this nice road to connect us," he said, nodding at the rail trail.