by Dennis Dalman
Back in its full glory after two phantom years, the juried Millstream Arts Festival Aug. 28 was a rousing success in downtown St. Joseph.
After about 40 years, the Millstream Arts Festival had to be cancelled or drastically curtailed in the past two years because of COVID-19 concerns. The festival started in the early 1980s on the campus of the College of St. Benedict. Later, it was moved every fall to Riverside Park, then to Minnesota Street and this time to North College Avenue.
Its date was changed to this time to coincide with college students returning for the school year. That was evident at the festival as St. John’s University “Johnnies” and College of St. Benedict “Bennies” could be seen all along the avenue, mixing with the crowds.
On an overcast day, people of all ages (and many dogs) strolled back and forth along College Avenue North, enjoying and/or purchasing art works on display at 46 tents and stands lined up in the middle of the street.
And there was a lot to enjoy: textiles, ceramics, pen-and-ink drawing, jewelry, multi-media creations, acrylic paintings, watercolor paintings, oil painting, letterpress prints, woodwork, photographs, metal sculptures, glass works, books and their authors – a veritable kaleidoscope of colors, textures, shapes.
Many festival-goers popped into shops along or near College Avenue for treats like ice cream, pastries, pizza, sandwiches or full-fledged meals. The Krewe restaurant staff made sambusas, which sold like hot cakes from an outdoor stand in the music area. Sambusas, very popular among Somalis, are triangular-shaped fried pastries filled with vegetables, spices and often ground meat.
The Avon Folk School provided children’s art activities: painting, drawing and a sidewalk area for chalk art.
Entertainment was provided by a band named Miss Darling Jane (its female members are students at the College of St. Benedict), Josh Cleveland and Band, Buddy King and Son (a father-son drumming duo) and a dance troupe from the Somali Museum of Minnesota (Minneapolis).
The festival lasted from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sponsored this time by Sentry Bank, the festival was made possible by a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, funds provided by the state legislature; support from the Central Community Foundation and the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict; and the leadership and vision of Alicia Peters, the festival’s president and an art teacher at the College of St. Benedict. Peters was honored with the Minnesota Higher Education’s Art Teacher of the Year Award for 2001-02.
Also contributing to the festival’s success were the many volunteers who helped things run smoothly.