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Christensen to retire from Art in the Park

Staff writer

Judy Christensen, 78, of Marion has been immersed in arts and crafts all of her life.

She has been chairman of the Art in the Park committee for 41 years and plans to step down after this year’s event.

Every year, she designs a T-shirt for the event.

“I told Margo I’m making them black this year because I’ll be in mourning,” she said, jokingly.

At age 78, Christensen accepts that Art in the Park is becoming a victim of modern technology. Applications may be received and booth spaces assigned by computer.

She fears that may take away from personal relationships with vendors like the ones she has formed throughout the years. If vendors sign up and pay for the next year after a show, she assigns them the same spot the next year.

“I will tell them not to expect the same space next year,” she said. “Technology will take over.”

She uses a flip phone, but she accepts that change happens and it was time for her to step aside.

She started several practices that will continue, such as Friday night setup, 4 p.m. drawings, and using Boy Scouts and community service members for help.

Looking back

“I can’t remember when I wasn’t working with my hands,” Christensen said.

She has painted and created hundreds, if not thousands, of handcrafted items. Her home at Eastshore is a museum of arts and crafts.

Christensen has sold her creations at numerous shows in Kansas and beyond.

“Jim was a teacher,” she said, “and while the children were at school, I would make things. Selling them was my way of making money for the family.”

Marion Chamber of Commerce has sponsored arts and crafts fairs in Marion since 1968. Some were in the basement of the city building and some were on downtown sidewalks.

In 1978, when Christensen suggested having it in the park and naming it Art in the Park, she became chairman of the committee. Several years later, she suggested it be held in conjunction with Hillsboro’s show.

“I shared my experience showing at a large fair in Arkansas that had little towns all around it with fairs of their own, and it was very successful,” she said.

Only 25 to 30 vindors showed up for the first year, but since then, a maximum of 200 have participated.

In recent years, the number of vendors has dropped. About 100 are expected this year.

“There aren’t as many handmade craft people anymore,” she said. “Women have jobs, and crafters are dying off.”

She checks out some applicants by calling them to make sure their products are actually handcrafted.

“If people bring things they didn’t make, we won’t let them come back,” she said. “I have to be really picky.”

Work at the park begins the Thursday morning before the show, when Judy, her husband Jim, and a few others use a 10x10-square foot frame to lay out spaces. They mark corners and number spaces with spray paint. It takes about four hours.

Friday morning, they set up the information tent and several rental tents.

Early Saturday morning, Christensen and her assistants are there to assign spots and guide vendors to their locations by flashlight.

They work into the evening after the show to make sure everything is cleaned up.

Christensen said the thing she will miss the most is the vendors.

“I love seeing new things and meeting new vendors,” she said. “I might have a booth next year to sell my own stuff.”

Last modified Sept. 4, 2019

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