Kirksville festival reunites community

On Oct. 2, the local community gathered together to celebrate the arts and local craftsmanship. After being canceled last year, the Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival was especially appreciated by many in attendance this year. 

Around the Kirksville Square, there were about 65 vendors with tents selling various arts, crafts or food, according to Dwight Buckingham, the adviser for the festival and chair of the 2019 festival. Red Barn is coordinated by the Kirksville Arts Association. Buckingham has been on the Red Barn committee of the Kirksville Arts Association for about 30 years, he said.

This year some things were moved around, he said, like tents being spaced out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aaron Fine, the chairman for the 2021 festival, said COVID-19 and other changes have required flexibility. 

“We really have a great committee that arose to every challenge,” Fine said. “It’s an amazing group effort, you know you get an amazing sense of how the community works when you’re inside an operation like this, so it’s been stressful sometimes and really really gratifying.”

According to Buckingham, the 65 exhibitors was lower than the typical 100 that the festival has. About half of the exhibitors are local to Kirksville, Buckingham said, and the other half are from areas like Kansas City, Iowa, Illinois, etc. 

Attendance had been good, Buckingham said. The crowd usually gets a boost of families coming into town for family day. Attendance has grown every year except for this year because of COVID-19, Buckingham said, though they are still glad the event is taking place.

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“Well I think it’s really a good feeling that we could bring this event back,” Buckingham said. “For the city of Kirksville, it’s one of the biggest things that happens all year in Kirksville and people really missed it last year so I think it’s just really enlivened the arts in Kirksville.”

Buckingham has been attending Red Barn since the very first one about 47 years ago. It first took place at the red barn at Truman State University’s campus, which gave it its name. Overall, the biggest changes have been the growth in size and the location change, Buckingham said. When it first started the festival was two days long, Buckingham said, now it is one. The basic concept of people selling arts-related goods was basically the same. 

At the first Red Barn, Buckingham thinks there were about 15 or 20 exhibitors, much smaller than what Red Barn has averaged in recent years. 

Cindy Summer, an exhibitor at the festival who has been coming to Red Barn for 10 years, said this was her third show this year, a big change after not doing shows last year. She wasn’t sure what to expect, but this year every show she’s done has been extremely busy, she said. 

Summer, who is from Memphis, Missouri, sold different teapots and lanterns, and many items made out of various metal objects. She said people were very excited to be out and mingling.

Emilie Barone was at Red Barn representing Kappa Pi, an international honorary art fraternity, as well as Clay People, a Truman pottery club. Her booth sold various ceramics and prints. Many of the ceramics were made by Lydia Richard, a member of Kappa Pi. Richard was glad to be selling the ceramics instead of keeping them in her house.

“It’s weird to not see it in my living room right now but I’m hopeful that getting my name out there will help me grow as an artist,” Richard said. “I want to do an apprenticeship next semester for ceramics, and so I’m hoping the more I can get used to the world of making and selling, the better chance I have of making it long term.” 

Barone said this was her first Red Barn and they’d had a lot of interest in the pottery so far. While it had been hard to part with things she’d made, it also felt good to have people want something she made, Barone said.