This weekend, locals and visitors can get a head start on holiday shopping at the sixth annual Bethany Beach Artisan Festival.
“The purpose of the ladies auxiliary is to support the people at the firehouse. We’re always looking for ways to do fundraisers,” explained Martha Lowe, who co-chairs the event with Barbara Brown.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s Ladies Auxiliary will be hosting the festival at the fire hall.
“This is our one main fundraiser at this point,” she said. “It’s been very good. It grows more and more every year, and it gets better every year.”
Lowe said the event was first started by her daughter Kristen Steele.
“My daughter came up with this idea six years ago because she felt, aside from the Boardwalk Arts Festival, there wasn’t much going on, especially in the fall.”
Lowe said that, since the festival began, it has grown steadily over the years.
“I think she started the first year with 20 or 30 artists in two bays in the firehouse. Now we use all three bays and have 54 artists, plus a waiting list,” she said. “It has grown and gotten more popular.”
Those who attend the festival may find a wide variety of art to purchase, including handmade jewelry, pottery, painting, knitting and glasswork.
Bethany resident Maureen Ickrath will be one of three photographers at the festival selling their work.
“This is my third year,” said Ickrath. “I also participate in the boardwalk show.”
Ickrath’s photography has been featured at the Lewes Historical Society, in Delaware Beach Life magazine and at the Ocean City Arts Gallery.
She first became interested in photography when she was 7, while living in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I attended a local museum, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. One of the things they did there was teach us how to make and use pinhole cameras,” she recalled. “I became fascinated with photography, and my dad bought me a Brownie camera.”
Ickrath said she is also a fine artist and graphic artist, which helped her stay behind the lens.
“As a graphic artist, you’re always in need of photos. You never have the right one,” she said with a laugh. “So I’d go out and take my own photos.”
Ickrath, who predominantly features landscape and travel photography, will have a number of her photographs at the festival, including some of the new Indian River Inlet Bridge.
“I just did a night series of the Indian River Bridge — I went out when it was the night of the ‘supermoon,’ so I have the nightglow of blue lights on the bridge and the supermoon,” she said.
“On the Fourth of July, Dewey Beach was trying to get entry into the Guinness Book of World Records by setting off the most fireworks in the least amount of time. I went and photographed the fireworks and superimposed them on another night photo of the bridge. All of those I’ll have for sale.”
As for what inspirers her, Ickrath said it’s the beauty that she sees in her subjects.
“I only photograph what I love and see,” she said. “To me as an artist, I just see beauty.”
She added that she loves being a part of artisan shows, to interact with those who are interested in art.
“I love talking to people,” Ickrath said. “I like finding out where they’re from, what they like, and why they like a particular photo… It’s interesting. People are always fascinating.”
Along with the artists’ work, food will also be available for purchase throughout the day.
“We have a bake sale that goes on. We have an apple crumb pie that’s sold out within the first hour. We make about 20 of those the day before,” Lowe said. “We also have breakfast and lunch items. Some people come just to buy the food! We have really good food, like shrimp salad and homemade quiches.”
Lowe said the auxiliary is able to raise funds through the artisans’ table rentals and the food sales, and hopes to raise $2,000 during the event this year.
“That would be wonderful,” she said. “The money we raise from this is money we turn back to the fire company for the operation of the firehouse.”
Lowe noted that local watercolor, acrylic and mixed-media artist Cheryl Wisbrock donated a piece of her own art to the Ladies Auxiliary to raffle off at the event.
“She was very generous to donate this to us,” said Lowe. “We’ll sell tickets the day of the festival and then we’ll draw a winner at the end of the day. And she said that she wants all the proceeds to go back to the firehouse.”
Last year, approximately 400 people attended the event, and Lowe said she hopes more will attend this year and enjoy good food and amazing art.
“I just hope we’re fortunate to have weather that we’ve been having for the past three weeks,” she said. “And I’m hoping for a good turnout for our artists. We always want to see them be successful.”
The Artisan Festival will be held at the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s firehouse, located at 215 Hollywood Street in downtown Bethany. For more information on Maureen Ickrath’s photography, call (302) 541-0483 or email at email@example.com.