HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The first art show was held at the Harrisville Harbor, on top of the hill, in 1968. It was sponsored by the Harrisville Lady Lions and the Ladies sold sloppy joes from the Lion’s food trailer. It was windy and cold; the total number of exhibitors was six. An airman from Wurtsmith AFB was the most impressive of the group , which consisted mainly of Bruce Hartman’s students.
Bruce held weekly art classes for the area’s young people. Two of the mothers of the young people were also charter members of the Lady Lions. Through various discussions with these mothers, the idea of an art show was planned with the Lady Lions as sponsors. The first few shows were held the first weekend in August and were not changed to Labor Day until the fourth year.
The second annual art show was held on the southeast portion of the courthouse lawn. The Lady Lions had a food booth consisting of three 4’ x 8’ plywood sections sections- hinged together for walls and a 4’x8’ roof. Coffee, lemonade and sloppy joes were served. The sloppy joes were heated on a kerosene stove donated by Wayne Riebow from Riebow’s Hardware. The exhibitors set up in a circle around the perimeter. If $125 in fees were collected (which was the average), the money was used for expenses and awards of $25 for first place; $10 for second; $5 third place. Silver dollars were given as prizes to exhibitors under 16 yrs.
The Lions food wagon was the only food available at the show for years. The Lady Lions eventually gave the chore over to the Lions and up until a few years ago, aided the Lions in the serving of hotdogs, etc. The tradition of giving a ticket for coffee and donut to the exhibitors began when the show was small and was sponsored by the Lady Lions and the Arts Council continues that tradition today.
When the art show was moved to Labor Day to coincide with the Barbershoppers reunion, the number of exhibitors increased…mainly from the Barbershoppers and their wives attending the reunion. In the early years, the Lions with the help of their wives sponsored the Barbershoppers and held a potluck supper at the VFW Hall to welcome the Quartets and their families to Harrisville. Years following the Potluck dinner, the gathering was moved to Maria Hall with food, drinks and sound equipment furnished by the Lions Club. Now the Saturday evening is organized by the Barbershoppers and Sweet Adelines themselves, and the public is invited.
The addresses of the exhibitors were kept on a hand written list and every spring, the Lady Lions would address the envelopes by hand at a regular meeting. The Lady Lions meetings were held at noon each month at the home of a member. Usually, a salad, sandwich and coffee were served on white lunch platters the Lady Lions had purchased with Holden’s Red Stamps.
Bruce designed the first application that was printed by the Lincoln Herald. It was printed on bright pink, heavy paper then tri-folded, stapled and mailed. This same application with some variation was used for 20+ years. The Arts Council still hands out bright pink applications to vendors on Harmony Weekend, so they can apply on the spot for the next year!
Early in the 1970’s, a group met and wrote an application for a grant to purchase equipment for the show, tables, tents, etc. The grant was fine, except that we needed a 501C3 tax number to qualify.
In 1974, Patti Pridnia was President of the Lady Lions and her husband, John was President of the Lions. John felt that the Art Council should be incorporated. John, consulting with James Cook, filed the application with the State, and the Harrisville Arts Council became a separate entity. Bruce Hartman was elected president and remained so for 20+ years. The Art Council and all its equipment, papers and computer (purchased in the late 80’s) were kept by Bruce and his wife, Joan. The addresses of exhibitors were put on computer and printed on labels from that time on.
The Art Council monthly meetings were held in the City Office during the years before the Arts Council building was constructed. Bruce brought the labels to a meeting each spring and members affixed the labels.
In 1995, a new computer was purchased from Den’s Computers in Oscoda. It was definitely an upgrade and the addresses were transferred. This computer was set up in Chuck Welton’s office on Main St. and data was transferred from the index cards into the Microsoft Access program. From this time, the committee met at Chuck’s office to receive apps and fill the maps and return confirmations.
In 2002, the Harrisville Arts Council building was constructed with funds accumulated from CDs and Savings accounts, as well as the donated labor of Dick Hartz. A new Dell system was purchased with Microsoft XP and now all of our reports are much more easily created.
Paper plates were stapled to stakes and exhibitor’s names were hand written. These were used to locate individual lots for exhibitors. Pizza cardboard rounds replaced the paper plates in 1999.
In approximately 1985, Mike Drewett, a civil engineer at Wurtsmith AFB, volunteered his crew of airmen to survey the City, County and State land used for the show. These maps are still used, with very little changes made. The council now hires sixteen local individuals to set up the grounds. It takes 3 days, 1200 lbs of flour (for ground marking) and $3000 in wages and cost of lunches to ready the grounds. Pizza plates are donated by John Marin, and wrapped in plastic, then stapled to wooden stakes. The Council’s August meeting is a work bee to finish the 500 name plates.
In the early years, the Council leased property on School Drive for exhibitors to park, primarily to remove their vehicles from the public parking area. Since 2000, a private individual has handled the School Drive parking and the Council no longer has to carry insurance and hire a crew to manage parking.
In January of each year, the Council requests permission from the County and City for use of the land surrounding the courthouse. At that time, they provide an insurance binder to both the County and the City. At the same time, requests are sent to the Shriner groups that participate in the parade and perform at the Harbor. These Shriner groups are each given a donation from the Council to participate in the parade.
Contracts are made with the Porta John and Garbage companies each Spring. Plaques, ribbons and name tags are ordered and the applications are mailed April 1st. Summer is spent sorting applications, cross checking and accounting for checks, money orders and cash. Every envelope is stamped with date received, type of exhibit, Country Store or Fine Art or Craft. Three or four records are kept so that workers have a way to cross check when an application is received, returned or accepted. The system is not first come, first served. Every application is accompanied by pictures, which are reviewed with the goal being the best show possible. The show is not juried, but carefully checked and sorted. Judging is done the first day of the show.
When the US-23 underwent changes a few years ago, the Council negotiated with MDOT and the County Road Commission to allow for parking and loading/unloading on the west side of US-23 and the north side of M-72 (west of the traffic light). They received permission to place traffic cones during certain hours. Now the parking cones are put out at 12noon to 9pm on Friday, 5am to 9am & 5pm to 9pm on Saturday, 5am to 9am & 5pm to 9pm on Sunday.
The Art Council is now the sole sponsor of Harmony Weekend. A donation is made each year to the Shriners organization for their participation. The performers on the Hill are paid by the hour or half hour. The sound system at all functions at the Harbor and the Art Fair is provided by the Council.
Only non-profit food booths are allowed on the grounds and each year, the total raised is approximately $24,000, of which 10% is returned to the Council.
The monies raised by the Council have been disbursed to the community through Adult Art classes, scholarships, Choir and Band, Art department, Summer Concerts, City Signs, Banners, Fourth of July Sidewalk Art, Harrisville and Lincoln Depots, Co-Op Nursery, 4-H, Christmas in the Village, Farm to Fork, Fire Awareness Education, etc.
The monies raised from Harmony Weekend have provided the Council with a new building on the location of the former Henry Stone home on North Third St. in the City of Harrisville. When Bruce retired in 1998, everything stored in his house was moved to the Stone house. Later, the Stone house was demolished and the new building was erected in its place. Dick Hartz was the volunteer contractor for the building. The Council no longer stores equipment in five different locations or depends on private individuals to furnish storage in barns or garages. The new building has plenty of storage room. It was not constructed with art classes in mind, but they are an added bonus to the community.
Three or four watercolor and pastel classes have been offered, and in the last few years were very popular. The classes began the first week in October with instruction by Pat Bacon. These classes may use the Arts Building during the six months the Harmony Weekend Committee are not using the main room.
Anyone seeing a car in the parking lot is invited to come in and look around, and possibly share a cuppa with whomever is working at the time!