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San-Cap Rotary hosts 28th annual Arts & Crafts Fair this weekend

By Staff | Feb 16, 2011

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary members Jim Lavelle, John Carney, Alex Werner, Dan Cohn, Lee Almas, Joel Ospa, John Grey, Tony Gropp and Frank Hagen proudly wear their Rotarian blue in preparation for the 28th annual Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Arts & Crafts fair, which will take place this weekend at the Community House.

For what began as a simple pancake breakfast in 1981, the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Arts & Crafts Fair has evolved into a two day festival of the best of what Southwest Florida and beyond has to offer in the world of fine arts.

From photography and wood-working, sculpture and painting, to furniture, gifts, jewelry and even wearable art, the 28th annual Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Arts & Crafts fair has something for everyone.

Though, this isn’t your average arts and crafts fair, and according to fair chairman Robert Monk, that’s what makes the event so popular — both among attendants and artists.

“It’s the quality of the artists that continue to apply — Sanibel is very attractive to them at this time of year, and the fair just keeps getting better and better. Despite the downturn in the economy, we continue to get good quality art and it seems that people are still buying it,” Monk said. “This year we had a record number of artist applicants — 230 applications — though we only have 110 spaces.”

To make sure only the best of the best make it into the show, a Rotary-affiliated but anonymous jury selects the top 108 entries. One year, Monk said, the fair had some empty tables — not because there weren’t enough interested artists, but because the standard of quality from some applicants wasn’t up to par.

Katie Gardenia’s soft dolls are always a fair favorite.

All in all, the Arts & Crafts Fair takes about 80 Rotarians and well over six months of preparation — reaching out to artists, collecting submissions, the judging process, figuring out the logistics of parking and signage, rounding up volunteers and promoting the event.

“It’s worth it. The people that come always enjoy it and of course, the island seems to have taken a liking to it,” Monk said.

But it’s more than just an art show.

“All the net proceeds from the fair go to the charitable trust of the Rotary club. During the course of the year, the club will donate money to local causes and some international projects that we have through rotary international,” Monk said. “Recently, we’ve focused on clean drinking water and we’ve done projects in Tanzania, Tajikistan, Nigeria and Guatemala and we’re trying to do one in Haiti as we speak.”

The Rotary club is hoping for more than 10,000 visitors to the fair this year, which isn’t an unrealistic target considering the popularity of the event — and that enormous billboard on the left side of the road as you come onto the causeway.

“That billboard is the envy of everyone and we really can’t thank Scot Congress and Congress Jewelers more than enough. Scot has been a Rotary member for such a long time and he’s so passionate about the causes we support,” Monk said. Congress Jewelers is this year’s gold event sponsor.

During the fair, there will also be a silent auction containing many items donated by local businesses, including a Rolex watch, week-long vacations and many spectacular works of art donated by local artists.

“It’s going to be a fantastic show. Ikki Matsumoto is back again and islanders love connecting with him and will also have some folks there demonstrating what we’re trying to do with our Guatemalan water project we’ve been working on. There will also be various kinds of hand-made Guatemalan beadwork for sale,” Monk said. “We think the weather is going to be good, so we hope people can come out and enjoy the art and then they can go to the beach and enjoy the sand and water later in the day!”

The 28th annual Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Arts & Crafts Fair will take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 19 and 20 on the Sanibel Community House lawn, 2713 Periwinkle Way. Parking is free, but a $5 donation is suggested for entrance into the fair. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information, call 472-1000 or go to www.sanibelartfair.com.