Kentuck festival sees continued success


Lost Bayou Ramblers played during Kentuck Sunday Afternoon./CW| Sara Beth Colburn

Kelsey Stein

Thousands of people flooded the Kentuck Festival on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy local food, music and a variety of work by artists from across the country.

Winding paths led guests around Kentuck Park, where they could see more than 250 artists and their works, including woodcarvings, sculpture, metalwork, jewelry, paintings, photography and more.

Kentuck Executive Director Jan Pruitt said the festival was a huge success, thanks to a core of hardworking volunteers. Valerie Piette, Kentuck’s program manager, and Emily Leigh, Kentuck’s assistant director, along with the rest of the Kentuck staff, worked since the close of last year’s festival to make this one a success.

“You close one and you say ‘woohoo,’ and you consider the lessons you’ve learned,” Pruitt said. “We just want to build on this success next year for the 40th anniversary.”

Though the specific numbers aren’t in yet, Pruitt said attendance seemed higher than the 2009 festival, which had somewhere between 10,500 and 12,000 attendees.

Artists’ sales also increased, which Pruitt cited as a sign the economy is finally picking up.

Kentuck studio artist Kerry Kennedy said she heard positive feedback from artists and attendees alike.

“This is how Kentuck is,” she said. “It’s the quintessential experience. The weather has been beautiful, and the people are friendly.”

Kennedy, a potter, has attended the festival since she was a child. She said it was an honor to be an exhibiting artist for the first time this year.

Also a potter, Don McWhorter has displayed his work at the Kentuck festival for 14 years.

“The quality’s always been superb,” McWhorter said. “There’s a good stream of new art mixed with artists who come back year after year, and it’s always top-rate and innovative.”

He has worked full-time as a potter for 38 years, often changing his style and technique. Part of being invited back to Kentuck, for him, means constantly evolving and not becoming complacent.

After years of showing his work at Kentuck, McWhorter received his first award this year, “Best in Show.”

He has won awards at other shows, but said Kentuck is “a tougher nut to crack” because of the caliber of artwork.

“There are some artists from across the country I see only at Kentuck, and they would’ve gotten my vote,” McWhorter said. “To be even considered in a category with them, I’m just totally humbled, flattered and thrilled.”

McWhorter, who hails from Carrollton, Ga., said he enjoys the attitude toward art he’s seen in Alabama.

“I respect what they do in Alabama,” he said. “They don’t depend on New York City, L.A. or Paris for publications that guide the public to what great art is. Alabama decides for itself.”

Sarah Hicks, a junior majoring in English, attended the festival for the first time this year as a volunteer with the University of Alabama Circle K Club.

Hicks said students should consider attending because it’s a great opportunity to see local art, and there are a number of incentives, like tickets given away by the Honors College.

“It’s legit, and everybody here is so talented,” she said. “You think it’s going to be older people milling around, but it’s much more interactive than I expected.”

Each year, the Kentuck Festival has grown in popularity with both students and the community and has received local and national acclaim. The staff focuses on the organization’s mission to perpetuate the arts, engage the community and empower artists.

“This is what Kentuck ought to be like,” Pruitt said. “The festival was terrific, the artists can get more money and people can have more art in their homes.”