Haddonfield shares street full of wares for 20th year

Kings Highway in Haddonfield becomes a corridor of tents full of wares from crafters and artists. Restaurants, too, set up shop with good things to eat.
Kings Highway in Haddonfield becomes a corridor of tents full of wares from crafters and artists. Restaurants, too, set up shop with good things to eat.

The annual Crafts and Fine Art Festival, with 285 juried artisans, rules on Kings Highway.

Posted: July 13, 2012

On an ordinary weekend, Haddonfield's main drag, Kings Highway, bustles with window shoppers, restaurant-goers, and families out for a stroll. Little side streets beckon with boutiques and galleries.

But this weekend, Kings Highway will be in its annual Crafts and Fine Art Festival mode, a reminder that this town loves the arts, and has set aside this summer weekend for the last 19 years to prove it. This year marks a milestone 20th anniversary of the show.

Tents line the middle of the street, and foot traffic expands exponentially as more than 285 crafters and artists, all juried into the show, display their wares in a festive arts corridor. Those wares include traditional painting and prints, jewelry, fabric art, ceramics, and wearable art.

"The planning for this show began the day after last year's show closed. It's definitely become national in stature and reputation, and most of all, very popular in the whole region," says Marcy Boroff of Renaissance Craftables, the Philadelphia-based company that also has planned and executed similar shows in Manayunk, at the Italian Market, and on Long Beach Island.

Boroff and her mother, Barbara Boroff, did the very first Haddonfield show in 1993 and have watched it grow. "This is a huge summer happening, and there are people who plan their vacations so as not to miss it," Marcy says.

To celebrate this 20th-anniversary year, the umbrella theme is "A Family Affair," a nod to the collegiality of the artists involved and the suggestion that this is truly a summer weekend families can enjoy together.

Painter Stuart Yankell of Bala Cynwyd, who has established an international reputation ( www.yankell.com) and has had solo exhibitions as far away as Buenos Aires and Venice, is delighted to be part of the show just over the bridge from Philadelphia.

"It's a very friendly crowd, and it's one of those grassroots events that makes you remember how terrific it is to actually meet and mingle with people who care about art," says Yankell, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and also earned a certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Yankell said he often was surprised by the comments and insights of people who look at his works at festivals and see, and say, things that intrigue him.

Among the works he'll be showing in Haddonfield will be many music and dance paintings, his favorite genres. Also in the mix will be some from Yankell's "Cities of the World" series, which includes his own beloved Philadelphia, along with Jerusalem, Manhattan, Seville, and Chicago.

"I bring a great range of works to Haddonfield," Yankell says, "because I know that there are those who are happy with a print on paper for $70, and serious collectors who might be interested in a $7,000 piece."

No sleeping in on show days. Like many of the other artists in the festival, Yankell's setup often takes as long as four hours.

For jewelry artisan Emily Keifer Jackson ( www.emilykeifer.com), the Haddonfield Crafts and Fine Art Festival is a familiar summer ritual. Originally a graphic designer, Keifer became fascinated with jewelry along the way, and loves to work as the ancients did.

"I try to use the jewelry-making techniques of old, and particularly love very detailed pieces and filigree," says the Collingswood artist. She offers not just the richness of 24-karat-gold pieces, but also more affordable 14-karat gold and silver.

"I'm finding that many women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, have really come to appreciate jewelry that is handmade, not mass-produced," Keifer Jackson says. "It's very gratifying that they really seek out my necklaces, earrings, and rings, and keep them forever."

For festival-goers who like to be involved in the action, Richard Aldorasi ( www.ebrurichsilkdesigns.com) offers a very special attraction.

Aldorasi is a passionate follower of the ebru art form, a marbleizing technique that started centuries ago in China. He uses his experience as a longtime teaching artist to help festival-goers create their own scarves using the technique.

"All of the patterns we create are one-of-a-kind designs that utilize a print taken from paint images that are floated on water," Aldorasi says. "It involves a bit of science and a lot of creativity."

With his creative partner, Betsy Lamb, he also encourages young people to try the process and carry away one-of-a-kind treasures.

The crafters and artists all along Kings Highway are a happy reminder that not all summer diversions are at the Shore.

"The July craft festival is one of the oldest in our town, and one that always draws the largest continuous crowds over the two-day event," says Arlene Fiorilli, director of the Haddonfield Information Center, which serves and coordinates the retailers, professionals, residents, town organizations, and downtown events in Haddonfield.

While love of the arts may be the draw, there's still the lure of food, glorious food.

According to Fiorilli, the restaurants in town are very much a part of the festival: "A lot of our restaurant owners sell their food specialties under the tents and curbside to feed the hungry crowds as they stroll and shop."

Local favorites are the Little Tuna, the British Chip Shop, Da Soli, Rent-a-Chef, Sweet T's Bakery, Gracie's Water Ice, the Bistro of Haddonfield, Apron, the Bread Board Plus, and DreamPuffz, among others. "Absolutely nobody needs to go hungry," Fiorilli says.

Planner Marcy Boroff sums up what makes the event a classic for thousands of visitors: "Because of the PATCO Speed Line, Haddonfield is an easy destination. The Haddonfield stop is exactly where the festival is, and trains run from morning through night."

But ease of access is not the only reason for the festival's success.

"Fine-art collectors can find what they want, and so can teenage girls looking for hair accessories," Boroff says. "And in the middle of July, people who plan ahead find unique Christmas presents. What a delight that is when others are freezing and fighting the crowds."

The Haddonfield Crafts and Fine Art Festival will be held, rain or shine, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The festival runs along Kings Highway from Haddon to Euclid Avenue. Free parking on side streets. Admission is free. Information: www.haddonfieldnj.org.   

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