Barely an hour into the second day of the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts, organizers were ready to call off the event due to bursts of rain making it hard for artists to keep their works safe and drawing few spectators.
Sponsored by the Glen Ellyn Lions Club, the festival, now in its 43rd year, drew a couple of thousand people to Lake Ellyn Park Saturday, said Geoff Bevington, Lions Club president.
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That also was partly due to the crowds who came to watch the football game between Glenbard West and Wheaton-Warrenville high schools, he added.
But Sunday, the handful of visitors huddled under umbrellas, tents and booths to avoid the sudden downpours rather than to peruse the handcrafted jewelry, paintings, pottery, photography, metalworks and other artwork on display.
For a while, a lone couple sitting on a park bench under an umbrella were the only audience for the festival's featured musical entertainment, the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble.
Bevington said organizers would let the artists decide when to call it quits. Many of the exhibitors started packing up their booths shortly before noon.
"We'd like the traffic to be more but safety is a concern," Bevington said. "We're going to have to shut it down."
Each year, the festival raises between $12,000 and $15,000 for the Lions Club's "sight and sound" mission to fund visual and hearing services such as eye exams for those in need. The proceeds, including artist fees of $200 a booth, support the club's foundation.
With a record 88 juried artists exhibiting, the club already made more money this year than in years past. Since the event is volunteer run, there's minimal overhead costs other than for advertising the event.
"Whether it rains or not, we've raised that money," Bevington said. "This year we've had more artists than we've had ever. We're just hoping to get the same kind of turnout next year. You never know about the weather."
Organizers made an additional $1,000 from beer and wine sales Saturday, and typically raise about $800 through raffling off prizes.
"Eighty percent of our funds go to sight and sound and 20 percent goes to organizations that benefit the local community," Bevington said.
Ceramic artist Jill Tortorella of Antioch, who has exhibited at the festival for 10 years, said customers snatched up 12 of her "berry" bowls designed for washing and ventilating fruits after reading about them in the Daily Herald.
"It's an awesome little show and we do really well with all the neighborhood people coming," said Tortorella, 57, who travels to 30 to 35 art shows regionally and nationally.