Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Priscilla Lowry pours beeswax candles in different shapes and patterns. This year is her first time exhibiting at the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times Priscilla Lowry pours beeswax candles in different shapes and patterns. This year is her first time exhibiting at the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival.

Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival returns — with pandemic adjustments

Organizers are excited but still making the safety of guests and vendors a top priority.

A scaled-back arts and crafts festival is returning to Coupeville this weekend.

Whidbey residents can enjoy this coalescence of the vibrant local art scene from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 15 on Front Street and surrounding streets in Coupeville.

Organizers are excited to be up and running after last year’s festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but they are still making the safety of guests and vendors a top priority.

The festival will feature work by 114 local artists — about a 33% decrease from a regular year.

Festival Board President Deborah O’Brien said fewer artists are participating this year to allow for social distancing. The booths must be spaced 10 feet apart instead of side by side.

There will also be less food this year, with seven vendors attending instead of the typical 11.

O’Brien said some of the festival’s regulars went out of business during the pandemic; others had already committed to different events that weekend, since organizers weren’t sure until late in the planning process whether food would be allowed.

Despite the smaller numbers, festival attendees can still expect a wide variety of both art and food. Participating artists work in all kinds of media, including wood, glass, photography, jewelry and more. Hungry visitors can choose between pizza, barbecue and Asian food, among other options.

“It’s going to be an expensive festival for me, I can tell,” O’Brien joked.

One of the exhibiting artists is Priscilla Lowry, owner of Whidbey Wax Works Artisan Beeswax Candles. Though the Langley-based artist has attended the festival for decades, this is her first year exhibiting her own work.

“It’s nice to be selling at an arts festival,” Lowry said. “I love selling at the farmers markets, that’s wonderful, but as an artisan, it’s really meaningful to have the product be appreciated at that level as well, as fine art.”

A few regular staples will be missing from this year’s festival. There will be no live music, to encourage social distancing. The Pacific Northwest Art School has also chosen not to put on an exhibit this year.

“It’s going to be more like a festival from 20 years ago,” O’Brien said. “It’s a little walk back in time, is what we’re doing.”

The arts festival comes amid a new wave of local COVID-19 cases as the highly-communicable delta variant strain makes its way through Island County, where vaccination rates are lagging behind the rest of the state.

O’Brien said to protect attendees’ safety, everyone will be required to wear a mask inside buildings and on the festival shuttle regardless of vaccination status. Organizers are also requesting masks be worn outside.

A mobile walk-up vaccine clinic will be present at the festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The vaccine is free, and Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will all be available. The clinic will be located in the public parking lot next to the Coupeville library.

Lowry said she isn’t concerned about safety at the festival because of the precautions taken by organizers.

“I think the show promoters at this point are really incredibly mindful and thoughtful,” she said. “There’s a lot of integrity in following the guidelines in a proper fashion, and it seems like everyone is really doing that because we do want life to be sweet.”

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times
Priscilla Lowry melts beeswax to filter through a cheese cloth and pour into candles.

Photo by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times Priscilla Lowry melts beeswax to filter through a cheese cloth and pour into candles.

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