Red Barn: A Kirksville Tradition Continues

Every fall for the last 42 years, the Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival appears like magic along Kirksville’s downtown square. This one-day event gives people from near and far a chance to experience a variety of arts, crafts, foods and performances by vendors from across the state. The festival might seem to appear and disappear out of thin air, but few people realize the amount of work or months of preparation volunteers put in to make it possible.

Brooke Kelsey, 2016 Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival Chair, says the planning process for Red Barn begins in January when they begin editing all of the brochures and flyers to reflect the next year’s dates. Kelsey says the Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival Committee also send out vendor applications to the people who have previously showed at Red Barn. Kelsey says this way those people get first call on where they would like their booth to be. New vendors can receive applications online or by calling to request one, she says.

Kelsey says the next step in preparing for Red Barn is a process called jurying. When applications for a vendor spot begin coming in, around April, the committee goes over the applications and determines if the materials are handmade, Kelsey says. She says one of the requirements to having a booth at Red Barn is a vendor’s wares must be completely handmade — nothing they sell can be mass-produced. Meanwhile, Kelsey says Judy Neuweg, Kirksville Arts Center director, begins the logistical process of confirming requests with City Council and the Farmer’s Market.

Kelsey says beginning in May, the planning committee meets once a month and includes coordinators for entertainment, public relations, volunteer coordinators, logistics, food vendors and judges. Starting in September, the committee meets a couple times to finalize all the details, Kelsey says. She says the morning of the event, the volunteers arrive around 5 a.m. help set up and stay until clean-up around 4:30 p.m. Volunteer positions include working in the information booth, collecting trash, setting up and tearing down tables, and working in the Kids Korner. Kelsey says she and the rest of the volunteers spend the day troubleshooting any issues that might arise, such as confirming vendors only sell handmade goods or that they aren’t blocking businesses, as well as handling vendor disagreements.

“It’s a pretty smooth process,” Kelsey says. “It’s a lot of stuff that all comes together for one really big day.”

Volunteer Anne Barlow worked in the information booth, answering questions and directing people to the correct places. She says she has been working with the Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival committee for eight years, but she first started volunteering with the Kirksville Arts Association after she retired and became involved in Community Chorus.

Barlow says Red Barn wouldn’t be possible without volunteers. Barlow says she volunteers over 100 hours per month at various places throughout the community.

“I needed something to do with my time,” Barlow says. “It’s all about volunteering because when you retire, if you go home and sit on the couch, you become part of the couch and you’re gone.”

Barlow says she helps organize Red Barn throughout the year by helping with the mailing, including printing material, stuffing envelopes, addressing envelopes and sending them out. She says she also pays attention during the event and makes suggestions for the next year.

“People, they don’t have a clue what has to go on in order to pull something off like this,” Barlow says. “This is the 42nd … year of Red Barn, and it’s gotten bigger and better every year.”

Barlow says because Red Barn coincides with Truman State University Family Day there are usually 8,000 to 10,000 extra people in town.

Each vendor receives a packet, prepared and collected by volunteers, that includes the pictures of the wares the vendors sent in with their applications, a sign that must be hung on their booth, policy statements, brochures, surveys and judging information, Barlow says.

There were a total of seven awards given at the festival. First Place Fine Art (2D), First Place Fine Art (3D) and First Place Crafts were each given with a $250 prize — Best of Show was given with a $300 prize — First Time Exhibitor was given with a $200 prize — Crafts Honorable Mention and Student Art Award were each given with a $175 prize, according to Kirksville Arts Association website.

Julie Mikolajczak, hospitality volunteer and former Red Barn Arts and Crafts Festival chair, says there were a lot of first-time exhibitors at the festival this year, maybe because Red Barn coincided with Family Day, which took place later in the year than usual. She says this year there were 30 first-time vendors and 68 returning vendors. The maximum amount of vendors the festival can accommodate is 108, she says. Mikolajczak says as a hospitality volunteer, she makes sure all the vendors have food and water because many of them are not able to slip away during the day for food.

Mikolajczak says sometimes vendors and volunteers don’t show up, but mostly everything runs smoothly.

Mikolajczak says most volunteers are associated with the arts council, though they have a lot of volunteers from Truman.

“It does take a lot of people, and it does take a lot of time,” Mikolajczak says. “And at this point it’s a pretty well-oiled machine, but there’s always something.”


This appeared in the Oct. 6 issue of the Index.