Several weeks ago Wayne and I had the fantastic opportunity to attend Bele Chere in Asheville. This was by far the largest festival we've participated in to date and we didn't have any idea what to expect. It turned out to be three full days of art, craft, people, yummy food, and (bonus!) dogs. \n\nLet me start by saying Bele Chere definitely draws a crowd! For most of the event, there were people as far as you could see.\n\n\n\nWe were excited to visit with customers. Some we knew, most we did not, but we love the opportunity to meet new folks! We also got to visit a bit with Pennywishes. They live in Asheville and stopped by to say hello.\n\nTaking in the festival itself was a bit overwhelming. They close off several streets downtown and Bele Chere ends up sprawling with booths and vendors running down all the side streets. As with any large festival, intermixed throughout were performance artists.\n\n\n\n\n\nAnd musicians:\n\n\n(The Big Nasty is pictured above. They play jazz and were pretty amazing.)\n\n\nAnd a guy who was doing both:\n\n\n\nFor the kids there were smurfs...\n\n....and face painting\n\n\n\n...and very cool paper hats.\n\n\n(thanks to the kind mom who let me take a picture of her adorable daughter sporting her hat)\nAnd there was an endless supply of food. All the typical festival style food and a whole section at Pack Square called the Taste of Asheville.\n\nWe had some pretty amazing bruchetta from Ristorante Vincenzo, ate a meal at the Green Light Cafe, and wandered up to the French Broad Chocolate Shop a few times for goodies. Yum!\nI, of course, spent a good bit of the first day wandering around. The booth wasn't busy yet, so I had some time and used it quite wisely taking pictures of a selection of my favorite artists.\nRocky Green makes amazing hand hewn bowls. He was braving the heat and working on one outside the booth while people wandered by.\n\nHow gorgeous are these?\n\nGnarled Tree crafts Didjeridoos which he kindly played for me. I want one. No clue why and I would have absolutely no use for one, but I think they are a fun instrument. The booth stayed quite busy as he was teaching people how to play.\n\nThe juried art section was full of talented folk. I was drawn to Cindy Anderson's booth specifically. What an amazing imagination she has. On her web site, she refers to these as "oddities" and I think they are aptly named. I loved looking at her work - beautiful and fun, but slightly dark (forgive the shadows...I wandered over at the wrong time of day).\n\nRandomly, there was someone selling Bonsai.\n\nAnd, for the favorite pooch in your life, there was a bone bar.\n\nI loved the rustic quality of Sols Creek Natural Crafts. Through the course of the weekend I saw several people carrying around their distinctive baskets. \nTops for Shoes had a huge TOMS display and a fun give board that they were encouraging people to draw on. On Saturday they even had an artist who would hand paint on your purchased shoes.\n\nKaren Smith has gorgeous jewelry. I have to lay off my earring collection (it's getting a bit out of control), or I would have probably brought something home. \nMy favorite booth by far belonged to Michelle Mardis. The painting below is what first attracted me and (believe it or not) it was on the BACK of her booth. She accepts commissioned work (there may be a waiting list) and will paint your pet from a photo. She sells originals and small prints as well.\n\nI saw a tweet at some point through the weekend that Michelle had won first place for her booth. Well deserved! Here are a few paintings from inside:\n\nI treated myself to two purchases. The first was a bag from the talented Nikita Lynn. From what I understand, she travels to India periodically and has the bags made while paying fair wages to women. Aside from that, they are beautiful!\n\nI also bought another instrument. We own a few ukes and have been slowly learning to play. I saw a few people carrying an instrument that caught my eye and managed to finally track down them down (thanks for Evelyn and LaChristian for the help!). Below is Aaron. He and his father handcraft the Woodrow - a string instrument that is a cross between a banjo and a dulcimer. It is very easy to play and I've had fun with it already.\n\n\n\nMy saddest moment (yep, I managed to have a very sad moment at a festival....) was when I returned from wandering to have Wayne tell me I missed a flashmob!! I've have been dying to see one in person. As Wayne will attest, planned spontaneity is right up my alley and I am in love with the idea of flash mobs. It apparently happened at the intersection close to us and Wayne was able to catch some of it while helping customers.\n\nInstead, I got to watch a zumba class. Not quite as fun, but interesting all the same.\n\n\n\nThere were no shortage of Asheville moments, most of which I was just too shy to try to photograph. One slightly shocking thing for me was the sheer number of preachers. They were on every corner and some were bordering on rude. Several Asheville-ians (never afraid of confrontation) got involved. You may have to click on the picture below to fully appreciate it.\n\n\n\nOne of my favorite parts of the festival was the Air Dog competition. They set up a dock and a large pool and owners were throwing toys into the pool. The dogs would run down the deck, jump, fetch the toy in the water, and swim back to a ramp. Some of the dogs, like the one below, would run off the dock and sail through the air, retrieve the ball, and return no problem. One or two would run down the dock and come to a complete stop. They would stare at the toy, then stare at their owner. It was adorable. The crowd would usually try to urge the dog to jump and several would literally just step off the dock into the water.\n\n\n\nThe funniest thing to see what the english bulldog. It was as you would imagine it. The dog would jump, and sink. He was wearing a life preserver just to stay a float while his little legs tried to pull him through the water.\n\nThe trials went on several times a day Friday and Saturday and ended Sunday afternoon when the top dogs from the weekend jumped. I believe the winner jumped 25 feet!\n\nBetween the food, the performance art, the music and the vendors, the crowds really shouldn't have been a surprise. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to participate again next year. It was definitely a good time. Even if we don't, I think we'll likely attend just for the fun.