Cindy Pippert of Rock Island seemed to be selling flying carpets.
The wind blew through her tent Sunday at the Beaux Arts Fair in downtown Davenport so hard that her rag rugs almost took flight.
But fiber artist Pippert, one of three generations in her family who have been associated with the fair, hung on — sometimes literally — to have a good Sunday of sales and visitors in her tent during the 60th year of the event that is an annual Mother’s Day destination for hundreds.
Pippert and her daughter, Kelly Kulhavy of Rock Island, both are members of the Beaux Arts committee that puts on the fair twice yearly. “It’s in our blood,” said Pippert, who took art lessons at the Davenport Museum of Art before it became the Figge Art Museum in a new location downtown. Pippert, who majored in art education at Western Illinois University, became an art student of sorts at age 6 when she began making potholders.
She became a Beaux Arts Fair exhibitor in 1980. “I’m a lifer,” she said, adding that, despite the wind, “This is the second-best Beaux Arts in my whole life” in terms of sales.
“I enjoy the people,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of new faces this year.”
Her enthusiasm for the fair encouraged Jim and Vicki Rocker of East Moline to become members of the committee. Ultimately, Jim Rocker became the elected president of the fair, with longtime chairman Tom Magers, of Major Art and Hobby continuing his leadership.
The Rockers’ stained glass art, which they have shown throughout the United States, has been part of the fair since 1990, and they’ve been part of the committee since 2005. “With our show experience, we brought something new to the existing committee,” Jim Rocker said. “We brought kind of a new chapter.”
He said that the weather challenged the 139 artists this year as well as the 8,000 to 10,000 visitors in the crowd. “Wind is worse than rain for us a traveling artisan,” he said. Tents can withstand rain, but heavy winds are difficult to manage, he said.
First-time exhibitor Kevin Johnson of Fennimore, Wis., adapted to the breezy but sunny environment by removing the canopy from his tent and laying down his hand-crafted free-standing wooden puzzles. “I laid the puzzles down,” he said. “I like to say they’re sleeping or resting.” The puzzles, made of various kinds of wood, are in the shapes of animals and even the Chicago skyline.
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Despite the wind, “Today has been wonderful,” Johnson said. “I started making these for my kids, and then my wife asked me what I was going to do with them all.” He said his sales were good – in fact, he sold out of giraffes.
Among the hundreds of shoppers on Sunday were Lynn and Rich Ellis of Davenport. “We come every year,” Lynn Ellis said. “I used to take my son every year, but he’s now in California. Now, I’m coming with my husband.”
She said she likes a lot of the handmade wooden items. “I bought a frame,” she said. “You see stuff you can’t find anywhere else. There’s a lot of variety.”
Jewelry, photography, paintings and drawings continued to draw more people through the end of the day. Adding to the unique displays were food booths and musicians.
Proceeds from Beaux Arts Fairs support the Figge Art Museum for programs and exhibitions. Sponsors of the fair include Sunbelt Rentals, the Figge Art Museum, Rhythm City Casino, Cumulus Radio 93.5 and 97X, River Cities Reader, US Bank, Medic, MidwestOne Bank, Butler Insurance, DavenportOne, River Music Experience, the City of Davenport, KWQC, Allied Waste, Grid Buster Graphics and Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors.