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Earth and Arts Festival attracts large crowd

With the delicious scents from food trucks wafting in the wind, thousands took advantage of ideal weather Saturday to enjoy the Suffolk Earth and Arts Festival at the Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church.

About 75 vendors took part in the festival, which was seasoned with live music, food and child-friendly activities.

Michelle Clay, one of the festival planners, was full of smiles at the turnout and the beautiful day. She said she was hearing positive feedback from the vendors and the public about the event.

“This being our third year, we were really kind of gauging how well this, long-term, would look, how well we would do,” Clay said. “I feel like this year has been very favorable to last year, and we’re excited about our fourth year next year in 2020.”

Marianne Daugherty, of Weyers Cave in western Virginia, was at the festival as the only U.S. representative of Kijani Baby, a Ugandan company that sells cloth diapers and baby products. Last year, Daugherty attended the festival to browse and shop, but, as a product of Lakeland High School and with family in Suffolk, wanted to return this year as a vendor.

“We’ve had a steady flow of business even with the wind, and the sun’s been great, so I’ll take it,” Daugherty said Saturday.

Earthy Child vendor Kanisha Haskins of Hampton said she was at the festival for the first time, but with the friendly people and the steady business, she said she would return.

“It was a really steady flow of people all day, and there’s really cool vendors out here, a lot of stuff that I haven’t seen before, so that was interesting,” Haskins said. “I’ve done a lot of shows in different cities, and some of these people I see over and over again. Most of these people I’ve never seen before, so this is very interesting.”

Jessica Guptill, who moved to Suffolk last fall and started a full-time farm, Rehoboth Farm, off of Babbtown Road this spring, was selling chicken to people at the festival. Along with her husband, Josh Guptill, they feel like they’ve found a home in the city, and feel like they have a God-given purpose to raise animals in a healthy way.

“It has been such a fun event, and I feel like I’ve made so many connections in the community that we wouldn’t be able to find without going to this festival, in particular,” Jessica Guptill said. “It’s been a huge way to meet our community, and just let people know that we’re here.”

Erika Ferry, of Hampton, who was with her son, Micah, 6, and her friend, Sarah Erickson, of Suffolk, said they enjoyed the event, in particular the pony rides and playground, and he also got his face painted.

“We came out to visit and spend time with friends,” Erika Ferry said. “Sarah invited us and we thought it sounded like a good time, and so we’re here, and we’re having a blast.”

Erickson said she is happy to see Suffolk have such an event as its own, and she enjoys seeing all of the vendors and artisans.

“I came out here, and came last year, and I think it’s been a success each year,” Erickson said. “It’s cool. As someone that lives in Suffolk, for people to come to Suffolk, it’s very exciting. … We need to have more events like this.”

Linda Bunch, executive director of the Suffolk Art League, was watching people come by to paint a mural for Ann Horton’s on Holland Road.

“We’ve had from 1- to 2-year-olds, on up to senior adults,” Bunch said.

Renee Eichman, whose daughters, Lauren, 12, and Heather, 18, were painting the mural, said the only remotely negative aspect of the day was the wind.
“This has been an amazing, amazing turnout,” Eichman said. “The weather was very cooperative.”

That’s exactly the feedback that was ringing in Clay’s ears throughout the festival.

“Our goal is to give the community of Suffolk something that’s their own, an event that they can come out to,” Clay said. “It’s in their city, it’s a lot of their own neighbors who are creating things, selling things, cooking the food, farming, growing plants and selling them and it highlights the plant sales and the local makers. It’s just a community event that we want to make fun.”