Thursday, December 18, 2014

Festival carves a name for itself


Eric Duderstadt’s woodwork is more than whittling.

Clutching a cylindric club of Ash wood, Duderstadt explained to the Saturday SWAN Arts Festival attendants how he carves down the lumber into a perfect barrel made for swinging.

Eric Duderstadt’s woodwork is more than whittling.

Clutching a cylindric club of Ash wood, Duderstadt explained to the Saturday SWAN Arts Festival attendants how he carves down the lumber into a perfect barrel made for swinging.

Using a high-powered device to spin the lumber evenly while sharp carving tools sliced away bits of wood several chips at a time, Duderstadt crafted a 34-inch baseball bat for the festival crowd.

He carved the lumber in four stages: the barrel of the bat, the descending barrel of the bat that moves into the handle of the bat and the knob at the bottom of the bat.

“The barrel of the bat is the part where they hit the ball, that’s the sweet spot of the bat,” Duderstadt said, mentioning recent success for the Kansas City Royals. “That’s why the [Kansas City] Royals went on a 10-game winning streak, they were hitting with the sweet spot.”

Duderstadt’s carving hobby was on display as one of the several art demonstrations at the SWAN Arts Festival that took over City Park, Fifth and Main streets, Thursday through Sunday in Ottawa. Demonstrations were provided by ACT Ottawa, Ottawa Writers Guild, Duderstadt, Lisa Bush, who provided demonstrations on both weaving and spinning, and others.

Much like many of the artists on display during the weekend festival, Duderstadt’s art is mostly just for fun, but also reaps tangible benefits.

“It’s just kind of a side business,” Duderstadt said. “It’s a hobby and kind of a second job.”

When asked by a child if he had ever carved a bat for any Major League Baseball players, Duderstadt was quick to toss out an offer.

“I have not made a bat for the majors yet, but I have for some minor leaguers,” Duderstadt told the child. “Tell you what, when you make the major leagues, you give me a call and I’ll make you a bat.”

The major league’s regulations are a stumbling block toward supplying the big-name hitters, he said.

“They put [the bats] through a lot of different tests: weight, length, and make sure the barrel is nice and even. It can’t be too big or too small,” Duderstadt said. “There is a lot of cost that goes into [Major League Baseball bat making]. We’ll see. We’ve gotten busier and busier.”


The SWAN Arts Festival — in its first year this weekend — saw 2,000 visitors, Shawn Dickinson, festival director, said Monday. He considered the event a massive success and already has begun planning the follow up event for next June.

Funded completely through donations from businesses, organizations and community members, he said, the event was great for the community.

“It was important to us to offer an affordable family friendly summer festival,” Dickinson said. “From the art vendors and demonstrations to the live music and children’s activities, we truly tried to offer something for everyone and couldn’t have done that without our generous sponsors.”

More than 650 people attended Friday night’s concert featuring Liverpool, a Kansas City-based Beatles cover band. And more than 150 people attended Saturday night’s community cookout, with 30 percent of the money from the cookout to go toward the festival and art projects associated with Ottawa’s 150th birthday — or sesquicentennial — celebration in September, Dickinson said.

Attendants also got to browse more than 35 art booths, 15 craft booths and several food vendors throughout the weekend. Dickinson said 35 percent of the $40 vendor booth fees will go toward arts education funding in the community.

“More than half of the art and craft vendors at the festival were local,” he said. “We believe it’s a true testament that we really do have a lot of great art already happening in Franklin County.”

Nearly 100 community volunteers, donating more than 500 hours during the course of four days, and countless hours by a steering committee, including Dickinson, his wife, Meg Dickinson, and others, provided the foundation for the event’s success.

“The festival would not have happened without the many volunteers involved,” Dickinson said. “The community and the response have been amazing.”

Next year’s event is tentatively scheduled for June 19-21, 2015, he said.

“We’ll be spending the next few weeks reviewing feedback from vendors and community members on how we can make future years even better,” Dickinson said. “We really believe this event was only successful because the community was ready for this type of festival. This is only the beginning for great opportunities for art in our community.”


With the inaugural well under way Saturday, Scott Diven noted room to improve.

“It’s a little spread out is the biggest problem,” Diven, a metal and ceramic artist from Kansas City, Missouri, who set up on the corner of the merchants, said. “For us it’s a long way to get to the food, small things like that.”

Diven, who sells his artwork through Scott Diven Designs, overall was pleased with the festival though. Dickinson and others made a great impression for their first attempt organizing such an event, he said.

“They’re doing good for their first year, and there are some changes I’m sure they’re going to make,” Diven said. “It seems like everybody is happy to have artists here and happy to have a festival going on, so that’s good.”

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