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Twisted Wilderfest is an unqualified success in the midst of an uncertain year

Brian Lisik
Suburbanite correspondent

GREEN  Calling 2020 a rough year for business would be the understatement of the century. And for some industries, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were even more catastrophic than most.

Take trade shows and craft vendors for instance.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Green hosted its annual Twisted Wilderfest on Oct. 3.

“I was signed up for 14 events this year and this is the only one I’ve been able to do,” said Nate Olinger of Norton-based Olinger Timber & Iron Works, one of 54 vendors and food truck operators at the 2nd annual  Twisted Wilderfest pop-up festival Oct. 3.

A blacksmith creating handmade art, tools and custom furniture, Olinger said that while it was his one and only craft show of the season, Twisted Wilderfest was an unqualified success. That sentiment was echoed by several other vendors.

“It has been excellent, we have done really well,” said Christy Halvorson, den leader of Cub Scout Pack 3335 of the group’s popcorn fundraiser. “We usually sell at stores, but we haven’t been allowed to. We thought that if we did $100 in sales an hour that would be good.”

Motioning to a stack of empty boxes behind the Pack 3335 booth, she said.

“We have surpassed that.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Green held its annual Twisted Wilderfest event on Oct. 3.

Like Pack 3335, this was also home décor business, Cazz Creations’, first time at Twisted Wilderfest.

“A lot of events have been cancelled and we were happy to find this one,” said co-owner Mary Coverdale.

Her partner, Anna Braun, side the wide array of products, as well as the physical layout of Twisted Wilderfest – with booths lining the walking trail through the woods from the entrance to Southgate Park to the back yard of the Twisted Olive restaurant – was mutually beneficial to both vendors and attendees.

“At so many of these festivals, you have (vendors) all doing the same thing,” Braun said.

If there was an unofficial theme to this year’s festival, repurposing–from clothing, to glassware, to baseball gloves - did seem to be the somewhat the rage.

For Barb Cyphert, of Louisville-based Barb’s Bunny Hutch, repurposing is the name of the game.

“People have boxes in garages of their ‘stuff’ that can be repurposed and become useful again – instead of ending up in the landfill,” Cyphert said. “(Twisted Wilderfest) is a way to get to do a show (this year) and this is a good show.”

A natural fit

Green Communications Manager Valerie Wolford said that while some parts of Twisted Wilderfest, such as yoga, music, and children’s activities, did have to be cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, the natural layout of the event was already social distancing friendly.

Other community events this year, like Art-a-Palooza, meanwhile would have created too much “congestion” and therefore had to be postponed, she said.

“(Twisted Wilderfest) was an event where people had a comfort level – outside, in this beautiful park - and we got great compliance with social distancing and masks,” she said. “People were just happy to be outside. And we have had two years of great weather, so that has helped a lot.”

A number of Art-a-Palooza vendors were also among those showcasing at Twisted Wilderfest, Wolford said.

Bigger plans next year

The festival is co-sponsored by the Arts Council, Gallery 143, Twisted Olive Restaurant and the city of Green and is one of a number of “pop-up” art and food artisan festivals that have become somewhat of a trend in recent years, Wolford said.

Turnout, she said, was equal to if not slightly better than last year’s inaugural Twisted Wilderfest.

“We probably had 40 returning vendors and I know many of the food trucks did great – some had to leave early because they ran out of food,” Wolford said. “Next year we hope to double the event. And hopefully by then, we will have a different world order.”

Cyphert, like many of the vendors, was likewise hopeful.

“It has affected things a lot – many of the larger shows, especially the ‘name’ shows, have not wanted to take the risk,” she said of this year’s strange COVID-driven trajectory. “But this event had people separated, with masks and hand sanitizing stations. They did it the right way.”