WEST JEFFERSON — Spring is here and with it comes an artsy tradition like no other, Spring Fest. For 32 years, the Ashe County Arts Council has hosted the event which lets kids enjoy the arts in a fun, hands-on environment.

This year’s edition was held Saturday, April 6, at the Early Learning Center in West Jefferson and had the theme, “Where the Art Things Are.” No matter what the theme is, the goal of the event is always to help the next generation of artists, according to Arts Council Executive Director Jane Lonon.

“It’s such a nice opportunity for families and kids to experience a wide variety of art and a chance to be creative,” Lonon said. “No judgement, no right or wrong, just the chance to touch it, feel it, create and have fun.”

Tables set up around the gymnasium had stations giving people the opportunity to make things like origami monster claws, monster bookmarks, boats and more. Also available for those in attendance was a hands-on clay station, face painting and balloon animals. Decorations for the event weren’t just banners and streamers, hung all around the room were pieces of art done by Ashe County Students.

Community organization including Keep Ashe Beautiful, Farm Bureau and the Florence Thomas Art School had activities set up for kids to learn and play. Something that was hard to miss was Keep Ashe Beautiful’s “bag person.” A worn piece of art and commentary, it showed how many plastic bags an average person uses in just one year.

One of the festival’s highlights was the student talent show, where local students and dance groups got the chance to show what they could do. This year’s performances included groups from April’s School of Dance, the Dancin’ Debbies and Fleet Feet Cloggers. It wasn’t just on the stage where visitors were entertained, roving performers including the Balloon Lady, Interactive Theatre by Jef and Professor Whizzpop.

The event started out as an open house to show what the Arts Council was doing 32 years ago as it was growing. According to Lonon, it just started growing when they realized how it could help connect with the young people of Ashe County. It also lines up with March and April being “Arts in Our Schools Months” while the Arts Center hosts “Young at Art,” an exhibition which highlights art done by students in Ashe County.

Lonon said Spring Fest, “Young at Art” and other things the Arts Council does with children and teenagers is helping to start the careers of the next generation of Ashe County artists, and that the future is definitely bright.

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