Winter Fantasy Brims With Holiday Cheer


By Daniella Walsh | LB Indy

The Sawdust Towne Square opens for visitors beginning Saturday.
The Sawdust Towne Square opens for visitors beginning Saturday.

The tree-shrouded grounds of the Sawdust Festival will wear a holiday glow for the 24th annual Winter Fantasy that begins Saturday, Nov. 22. Established in 1990, the event has drawn a variety of artists eager to sell their wares outside of the summer season and buyers searching for artful gifts that don’t claim to be smart anythings.

This year, 33 new artists join 142 others for the five-weekend long Winter Fantasy. As in previous years, the festival grounds main square will be transformed into a Towne Square of trees decorated by community groups such as local boys and girl scout groups and the Boys and Girls Club.

The main tree will be lit at 5:30 p.m. by Mayor Elizabeth Pearson, preceded by a range of entertainment from the Top of the World Elementary honor chorus to the reggae group Upstream and the bluegrass band Salty Suites. While the crowd enjoys cookies and cider, Santa Claus will make an appearance and Laguna Beach residents will once again being admitted free after 3 p.m.

Four weekends long previously, this year’s festival will last five weekends and add the Friday after Thanksgiving as well.

Jamie Bichler adds a decorative touch to the Sawdust Winter Festival Towne Square, opening Saturday, Nov. 23.
Jamie Bichler adds a decorative touch to the Sawdust Winter Festival Towne Square, opening Saturday, Nov. 23.

As tradition dictates, all featured wares are hand-made, but while the summer festival imposes a local residence requirement on artists, no such restriction exists in the winter show.

Some hail from as far afield as Tulsa, Okla., where Scarlet Sparkuhl Delia resides when she’s not visiting her girlhood home. “I am coming back to my roots, to the creative community I grew up,” said Delia, niece of well-known local artist and curator Pat Sparkuhl. The freshly minted family physician finished her residency 18 months ago, but took up quilting three years ago.

From Booth 435, she will be selling full-size quilts, baby quilts, infinity scarves and ornaments, utilizing even the tiniest scrap of fabric. “Quilting is such an old art form, but is enjoying a resurgence with the ‘maker movement.’ It is being modified to modern formats and designs utilizing negative space and contemporary colors, but also reworking classical designs such as the Friendship Star, Flying Geese and Lamoyne Star,” she said.

Wood worker John Enfield shares a Booth 300 this year with his wife Patti and mother-in-law Jane Slowski, both fused glass artists. “I was in the show two years ago and it’s been fun,” he said. This year he is making cutting boards in the shape of fish as well as wooden wind chimes, clocks and wall hangings. “My hope is to make a living doing woodwork and get out of construction,” he said.

Photographer Christopher Allwine is a newcomer to the Sawdust and Booth 517 after his debut at last summer’s Art-A-Fair. He describes his work as “light painting,” capturing images at night by lighting his subjects to create unusual effects. His latest project brought him to a scrap yard in the Mojave Desert. “It’s a challenge to photograph objects that have been discarded and forgotten like old vehicles. I like to preserve their history and give them new life,” said Allwine, who says computer software plays but a small role in his work.

Visitors, from age 7 to adult can get into the creative spirit by making clothes pin elves and pin cushion jars, paint in watercolors and combine media at the Ceramic Center and Studio One and the Children’s Art Spot.

The main square also serves as a convenient photo backdrop with a children’s playhouse, Santa’s house and sleigh, a reindeer barn.

“Everyone got really creative this year,” emphasized Sawdust board president Jay Grant. “There is a fresh, new spirit this year.”

The holiday spirit would be incomplete without Toys for Tots, the annual gift drive supported by the Marine Corps Reserve. Visitors can bring unwrapped toys for ages newborn to 17 every Sunday. A gift over $5 gains free admission for the day.


Hours: Nov. 22, 23, 28-30; Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 & 21. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission:

Adults $7, Seniors (65+) $6, children (6-12) $4, under 5, free. Season pass: $10. 949-494-3030.


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