Northern Wilds Magazine
Featuring roughly 50 artists and entertainers, the semi-annual Hovland Arts Festival began as a small gathering of local artists 18 years ago. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

Hovland Arts Festival celebrates local artists

The North Shore is widely known for its artistic community, with numerous galleries, shops, and fairs to enjoy throughout the year. Grand Marais is one notable destination, though a scenic 18-mile drive northeast during the first weekend of July will lead you to a fun and special event—the Hovland Arts Festival.

Hovland is a small, unassuming town with a decidedly “quirky” vibe. Scandinavian fishermen founded the community in the late 1880s, and it’s now home to a variety of folks who enjoy life away from it all, including many creatives.

Featuring approximately 50 artists and entertainers, the Hovland Arts Festival (HAF) began as a small gathering of local artists 18 years ago, slowly growing to a size now rivaling the annual art show in Grand Marais.

“The Hovland Art Festival is all about the Hovland artist,” says Rachel Rae Klesser, head of advertising and organizer for the event. “We feel it’s a well-balanced art festival with so many different mediums represented that it would be hard to list them all.”

Klesser is an artist herself—all the organizers are also vendors at the festival. She has been selling her art at the HAF since 2015, and serving as a co-organizer for eight years. In addition to her work for the HAF, Klesser manages Joy and Company in Grand Marais.

Like many local artists, Klesser finds great inspiration in the north woods. “I love the small town, arts community, and the nature/lake,” she says. “I paint a lot of paintings of ravens, which are plentiful here.”

The HAF takes place at the historic Hovland Town Hall, providing plenty of space for vendors and events, both indoors and outside. “There is painting, pottery, fiber, wood, rocks, and much more,” Klesser recalls. “The festival is the time to go meet and greet your friends and see what they have been doing all year.”

Last year, horseback rides were provided by Hovland local Amy Neilsen. | AMY NEILSEN

In addition to artist booths, food vendors will be available with a variety of options, and visitors will enjoy live music performances and storytelling happening throughout the weekend. Last year, there were even horseback rides provided by Hovland local Amy Neilsen.

Running a festival is not an easy task, and it requires teamwork. “We have a core group which helps write the grants, do the advertising, and decides our budget,” Klesser explains. “We also hire a music coordinator to handle the entertainment.”

Making the festival happen involves sending invites to artists, grant writing, and budgeting for improvements. “Visit Cook County gifted us a grant for $1,000 to help us replace tables at the Hovland Hall,” Klesser recalls. Another generous grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council pays the musicians for their performances.

The HAF is a semi-annual event. The summer show takes place the first weekend of July, and the winter show is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving in November. Unlike the Grand Marais Arts Festival, where vendors are chosen through an application process, the HAF is invitational.

“Summer is a big festival with some outside (of Cook County) artists, but all the artists in the festival have ties to Cook County or Hovland in particular,” Klesser explains, “which means that most of the money spent at HAF is money that stays in Cook County. The winter show is held the Saturday after Thanksgiving and is more limited on space, so Hovland residents are selected first for that show.”

“The original founding members thought of the festival as more of a family reunion, and we try to keep that flavor still,” Klesser says. “It is not uncommon to have to look for an artist to buy something from their booth, as they are usually visiting with their friends at another part of the festival…and that’s ok. This is for us, the artist[s], as much as it is for our visitors and customers.”

The summer festival takes place July 6-7. Follow the Hovland Arts Festival on Facebook for updates.

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