First-timers win Best in Show, Students’ Choice awards

Despite hot and humid conditions, craft lovers fled to Chillicothe's Simpson Park for another successful Chautauqua in the Park weekend.
More than 115 vendors, including more than 25 first-time exhibitors, packed the park for the 29th annual event. Hand-made jewelry, pottery, dolls, clothing accessories and artwork made up only a fraction of the items available for purchase or viewing.
Carolyn Stonner, of Jefferson City, Mo., was chosen as this year's winner of the Students' Choice award for her collection of hand-made jewelry. The Students' Choice award was determined by Sara Belvel and Jaren Hathcock of Susan Elson's Arts Masters Class. Stonner said she was honored to be chosen for the award, as this was her first time exhibiting her product.
"I was really thrilled they liked my work," Stonner said. "The students came in and they were asking me questions. I make spoon rings and bracelets. I told them how I had to bend them, grind them, drill them and polish them. I had a very good interview with them."
Stonner said she started creating jewelry about eight years ago, around the time of her oldest son's wedding.
"I made jewelry for their wedding," Stonner explained. "I've made jewelry for my daughters' weddings. When I worked for the state of Missouri and I'd go out on a disaster, I'd take some things along to do jewelry in the evenings."
Stonner said she had a great experience exhibiting at Chautauqua and hopes to return with her product in the future.
David Walker, of Macon, Mo., was chosen as this year's recipient of the Best in Show award for his use of recycled cork. Walker exhibited dinner trays, decorative wreaths and a multitude of other products.
"I kind of came up with this idea of doing things out of cork that people like and find useful," Walker said. "You can set something very hot on the trays, right out of the oven, and they would not burn. It's also decorative."
Walker said he has created items from cork for nearly six years. Like Stonner, this was his first time exhibiting at Chautauqua. Walker believes the uniqueness of his craft helped him win this year's Best of Show award.
"I think part of the reason I was fortunate enough to win this was that there's a lot of good crafters out here, but nobody does anything like this. I'm kind of the new kid on the block.”
The People's Choice Award was selected by the community. Ballot boxes were stationed at the front gate and information booth inside the park. This year's People's Choice winner was Smokehouse Pottery, of Chillicothe. Smokehouse was also last year's winner of the same award.
Lindy Chapman, Executive Director of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, said vendors reported good crowds this year, but the weather did create a different pattern than in years past.
"We had good crowds in the morning, and they tapered off a little bit into the afternoons as the heat came up," Chapman explained.
For more than three decades, the event has continued to grow and evolve. Chapman said much of that evolution is sparked from both volunteer and vendor feedback.
"We keep a running list throughout the weekend of things that we want to change or do differently next year," Chapman said. "Our vendors fill out surveys. I'll put those together before our next meeting, and we try to incorporate the suggestions that they have for future years."
More than 130 volunteers donated their services before, during and after the event. Volunteers answered questions, passed out cups of water, provided transportation and organized entertainment, among other duties. Chapman said the efforts of volunteers is the root of Chautauqua in the Park's continued success.
"I want to give a big thank you to all our volunteers," Chapman said. "There's the people you see out here everyday, and a lot of unseen people that also do things out here. It's cliche to say 'You can't do this without them,' but this isn't a five-person committee job. We need each and every one of them. We're thankful they're willing to spend their weekends with us, even when it's this hot."