Artists and art lovers will gather Saturday and Sunday, September 17-18, for a weekend celebrating some of the visual, culinary and performing arts of the Driftless region. More than 80 visual artists, a tent full of youth art, six bands and 10 food and beverage vendors will make the return of the Driftless Area Art Festival after a two-year absence related to COVID.
The festival first opened in 2004 in Ferryville, Wis., as the Crawford County Arts Festival. It has since moved to Soldiers Grove and expanded its umbrella to include artists and art lovers from across the Driftless Region, the land never touched by glaciers, including parts of Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The events featured up to eighty artists and drew crowds of over 5,000.
Music artists this year will include popular bands and some newcomers to the festival. Saturday’s lineup begins with Sophia Landis, a lifelong singer-songwriter from Elkader who blends ballads and blues. Her lyrics are rooted in compassion and courage, underpinned by exquisite piano and vocals.
Next comes Patchouli, in their 11th appearance at the Festival. Their blend of sound, depth and virtuosity is described by the Chicago Tribune as “Simon and Garfunkel meets the Gipsy Kings” and City Pages likens it to “taking a yoga class on a field of mustangs”.
Saturday afternoon features Acoustic DOGS, a trio hailing from the heart of Driftless and featuring veteran singer Scott Kerry Guthrie, multi-instrumentalist Dominic Orrico and percussionist Eddie O’Connor. Their songs include blues, Americana, folk, country and rock-n-roll.
Sunday’s music kicks off with long-time favorites Kickapoo Joy Juice, who offer lively polkas, beautiful waltzes, new songs, rags and reels. The quartet includes Jesse Downs on violin and accordion; Liz Voz on guitar, clarinetist David Gibbs; and Jane Keeley, a familiar face in the Driftless music scene, who plays stand-up bass.
Lou Shields continues the tradition of American music with a solo performance that harkens back to the styles of days gone by. Using his 1931 National Resonator or Banjo guitar accompanied by a unique front porch style of foot stomping and harmonica, he shares stories, thoughts and experiences with the audience.
This year’s music is sponsored by Richland Hospital and Clinic, the Festival’s 2022 Performing Arts Partner.
Shawna Connor, director of Community Relations and Marketing for Richland Hospital and Clinics, noted the many benefits the Festival brings to the well-being of many communities in the Driftless region.
“This outdoor event showcases the positive results of creative expression, introduces newcomers to the area, provides area Driftless artists a more impressive venue to engage others, and encourages young people to flex their creativity,” she said.
The Driftless Area Art Festival, to be held at Beauford T. Anderson Park in Soldiers Grove, Wis., offers free admission and parking. Full information is available on the website.