Artisans in the Park celebrates history amid shaky future

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By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - For four years, artists and craftsmen have been congregating at the Lost Villages in Long Sault, but organizers are suggesting the tradition is close to becoming another piece of the venue's diverse history.

City artist Jacqueline Major stands with Judy Kyte (left) and Karen Goswell during the fourth annual Artisans in the Park hosted by the Lost Villages Historical Society on July 5.

Hundreds flocked to Artisans in the Park to explore a variety of fine craft styles including jewelry, fashion, metal and glass work, drawing and painting, and literature on Saturday, July 5.

Event co-organizers Vale Brownell and Doris MacLeod, members of the Lost Villages Historical Society, said 30 vendors were in attendance this year, a drastic drop from the 50 in 2012.

"This might be our last year," said Brownell. "There's not enough volunteers and we have an elderly membership."

Lack of attendance isn't a major concern. But Brownell noted that artists are less likely to set up a booth if visitors only window shop.

Jacqueline Major, a Cornwall artist who specializes in cross stitch photo reproductions, has been showcasing her work at Artisans in the Park since it started in 2011.

"There's people here steady; a lot of lookers," said Major. "It's great exposure. I made some commissions today and it gets the word out. Since my work is very customized, a lot of times I get calls months later to work on special pictures."

Over the years, the event has helped the Lost Villages Historical Society raise $10,000 of their $40,000 goal to build a new pavillion at the tourist site located on Highway 2.

MacLeod said those who have links to the Lost Villages or residents with a genuine thirst for local history will have to step up and help with events to ensure they continue.

Brownell explained that there are plenty of ways to help keep the heritage alive.

The museum is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June to September. Admission is free, donations are welcomed.

Weddings are also a popular draw. Nearly 30 couples a year tie the knot there.

Major stood inside Zina Hill's Barber Shop as Long Sault residents Judy Kyte and Karen Goswell admired her lifelike artwork.

Flipping through a photo album of original pictures and their counterparts in the form of counted-thread embroidery unveiled a familiar face: Major's aunt, who Kyte used to teach with.

"I've come to this event each year, and I always find connections," said Kyte.

Goswell enjoys working with crafts, and was curious to see what creative gems were waiting for her at the booths set-up throughout the Lost Villages. Finding inspiration for her artwork was a plus, but her real motive was shopping.

"I'm excited to buy some gifts that are personal and unique," said Goswell. "It's important to support local artists."

When her and Kyte were told that the event might not return they were quick to voice their disapproval.

"I come to all the events here, they're very important. They bring people into the Lost Villages who may have otherwise just passed through," said Kyte.

More to come.

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