Cheerful marimba music filled the streets of downtown Olympia as children danced and adults checked artwork Friday night, the opening night of fall Arts Walk.
The intersection of Washington Street and Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic. It was filled instead with booths offering delights such as birdhouses, massages and bright-colored paintings. The festivities spilled into the rest of the city, too, with businesses offering performances and sales of their own.
This year’s event features 96 participating businesses and about 200 participating artists from Olympia and beyond. Festivities started at 5 p.m. Friday and will continue Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
Olympia residents Alyson and Joshua Cummings watched their 4-year-old daughter Ellen blow bubbles and play with the other children.
“It’s great that we have such nice weather,” Alyson Cummings said. “You know how it can be here during the fall.”
It’s these kinds of events that make Olympia a great place to live, Alyson Cummings said. The couple spent six years living in Washington, D.C., and missed Olympia’s distinctive, artsy flavor.
Roxanna Groves and Jude Manley, who co-own downtown art gallery Matter! with Pat Tassoni and Cha Davis, said they used the twice-yearly festival as an excuse to renovate the gallery.
“We painted the walls and we’re displaying our own artwork,” Groves said. “This is is the first time it really feels like our place.”
The artists purchased the gallery four months ago and have high hopes for the business.
“We really want to see the place survive and thrive,” Groves said. “This is the new heart of downtown. There have always been a lot of people at the restaurants, but now there are so many galleries around here.”
“People enjoy coming downtown,” Manley added. “That’s probably why I can never find a parking spot.”
Arts Walk also offers a venue for artisans who don’t have a traditional storefront. Jerry Baker set up a booth selling hand-crafted birdhouses and walking sticks. The cedar he used to make the products had been sitting in his shed for about 50 years.
“For me, this is just for fun,” Baker said. “I sell these for $10 each, so it’s not like I’m making a lot of money. I’m retired and I just wanted something to do.”
This is Baker’s second Art Walk. He set up shop for the first time during the spring event and enjoyed it so much he decided to come back.
“I think everyone’s out here having fun,” Baker said. “Look at all these happy people.”