WESLEY CHAPEL — It took art judge Crickette Todd more than four hours to carefully make her way through 35 exhibits before settling down to the task of determining who would walk away with checks and ribbons at Art in the Park at Wesley Chapel District Park on Saturday.
Todd, now retired, holds a doctorate degree in art, participates in the Zephyrhills Art Club and is a practicing artist in acrylic painting, pen and ink, and watercolor.
"I want to be very fair in my judging," said Todd, showing a clipboard with her set of evaluation points for the created works, display presentation and personal conversation.
When the final word was given, eight prizes were handed out with Best of Show distinction and a check of $500 went to Tampa folk artist Katherine Michael. Bob McAnespie captured first place and a check for $250 for his watercolor landscapes; Bruce Ferguson took home a second-place check for $150 for his oil painting; and Jack Beverland claimed the $100 third-place check for his folk art.
Following up were Honorable Mention recognitions going to husband and wife Louis Rodriguez and Gloria Barieto, Christine Richter, Jason Elliott and Doreen Donovan.
Cindy Fleming headed up the Art in the Park Committee for the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce and says she hopes this will become an annual signature event.
Artists from all over the state were invited to participate, but most of those exhibiting Saturday were from Wesley Chapel, Lutz, Land O'Lakes, Tampa, San Antonio and Zephyrhills.
The event attracted a steady stream of adults and children that started early and continued until late afternoon.
For the kids, a big draw was a cookie-decorating contest sponsored by the Wesley Chapel Sweetbay.
Jose Martin from Sweetbay handed out the plate-sized chocolate chip cookies and Cyn Lydon, a former Sweetbay baker, helped small children squeeze large tubes of colorful frosting, add sprinkles and a variety of decorations. Shortly after noon, 28 large cookies waited for the judges to decide which were best-decorated.
For most of the children, such as third-place winner Michael Yevstratov, 5, the best award was getting to eat the giant cookie. Big brother Tim Turov, 14, smiled and nodded in agreement.
The sounds from live performances of jazz and blues floated over the exhibits, and at the covered pavilion vendors offered a variety of food such as shrimp on a skewer, hot dogs, snow cones and cotton candy.
Fleming said it was the vendor sales that helped the chamber offer award money to winning artists.
Avalon McMann, 14, said her favorite part of the show was an opportunity to try her hand at "throwing" on a potter's wheel, part of San Antonio potter Jack Boyle's exhibit. McMann sat patiently, muddy clay splattering her jeans, arms and legs, as the wheel turned and Deborah Gillars, a Zephyrhills High School art teacher and Boyle's wife, gently guided her hands in shaping a small pot.
Fleming, chamber executive director Sheri Goldberg and chamber president Devin Collins were busy throughout the day, answering questions and making sure everything ran smoothly.
Their plan was to start small with the festival, allowing room for it to grow each year.