March 19, 2006 — Rosie Mackay's mocko jumbie dolls were all the rage on Sunday at the Starving Artists Day festival. And her note cards, which featured photos of the madras-outfitted dolls against a scenic backdrop of tranquil blue water and lush green mountains, were also a hit.
Mackay, one of 60 exhibitors at the first of three Starving Artists Day festivals held annually at the Whim Museum, couldn't have been happier as she sat relaxed in a chair under a tent.
Nearly everyone who stopped at her table was given a brief history of how she began making the dolls 11 years ago as a hobby.
These days she is making a bustling business. "They make nice gifts," she said.
Mackay had nothing but praise for her venue Sunday.
"This is a great place to be and a great way to advertise, no hustle, no bustle," she said of the annual festival.
The other festivals are held in August and November.
"It's also a great place for people to come and enjoy themselves because it's not just arts and crafts, there are food vendors and music — all the ingredients for people to have a nice time," Mackay said. "Unfortunately, the March and August shows are not as well attended."
As she looked out into the sparse crowd, Mackay said she believes that the November shows are better attended because it's so close to the holiday shopping season.
"I think we have more people here in November because it's closer to Christmas and people are looking for gifts, and we also have the snowbirds here who come looking for local-made things to purchase," she said.
Event organizer Lily Alvarez agreed that November does pull in a larger crowd but said that the March shows are also well attended.
"We have at least a thousand people attend then [November] but at the March event, we expect maybe 800 people," she said. "And because it runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. we have people coming and going, so you may never see a crowd but we have them," she added.
Alvarez said that she is working on adding other features like having vendors do demonstrations of their arts and crafts for future Starving Artists festivals.
"I want to give it a different flavor, and I want people to see what goes into making the arts and crafts," she said.
Alvarez said she is also thinking of moving the food vendors' court from the west side of the museum to the south. That way, she said, people will have a chance to dally about and walk through the arts and crafts section in order to get to the food.
Alvarez said that business was still good for vendors in spite of the sometimes sparse crowd.
"They make lasting customers because here they get to meet face to face with some of their customers," she said.
Many of the vendors on Sunday said they owned stores locally, but most worked out of their homes and only had phone, Web or regular mail contact with customers.
Mackay, who works out of her home, eagerly passed out her business cards to just about anyone who stopped by her table.
Nearby, a line was beginning to form about 2 p.m. around Eddy's hickory smoked barbecue stand.
Leo Dikinis and his wife, Virginia, were never idle for long as customers made their way to Eddy's table for heapings of fresh salad and baked beans with barbecue ribs or brisket, which was cooked in a Texas-style pit made of hickory wood and slow-turned for 14 hours.
"We have a lot of repeats," Leo Dikinis said as he piled a styrofoam container with salad, beans and brisket for a customer. "We have a following because of our generous helpings," he said.
This was the Dikinis' second time at the festival. They plan to be back in August.
Rita Frost and Jennifer Tergeoglou were visiting from South Carolina. They stopped to admire handmade jewelry and watercolor paintings from vendors before moving on to a table that featured hunks of what initially appeared to be gem stones but were instead perfumed soaps with names like amethyst and marble.
The Soaprocks, as they were called, were also hot sellers, according to vendor Kathy Gallagher. She and Patty Kuehn opened a furniture store a month ago in Frederiksted and decided to add various arts and crafts as accessories. The soaps have been a welcome addition to the store's merchandise offering.
Gallagher said that the soaps can be used to accessorize any area because they resemble gem stones.
"We've been selling a lot of them," she said. "This is good, cheap advertising for us."
Frost and Tergeoglou both said the festival was a form of relaxation for them."We get to walk around and chat with the artists and learn their culture and marvel over things like these beautiful rocks," Frost said.
Tergeoglou reminded her that they are not rocks before they moved on to another table looking for just the thing to catch their eye and pocketbooks.
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