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More than merely art 
at this festival; Vendors, crafts, food and a sunny day drew crowds to Elmwood Avenue on Saturday

Kimberly Young and her young son were among the thousands who braved the blistering heat Saturday to enjoy the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.

Sure, the art was a draw.

But for mother and son, as for so many others, it was all the other quintessentially Elmwood features of the event that drew them – things like the Moroccan beef stew from the Lexington Co-op they brought home for grandma and the hands-on activities and storytelling for kids.

"Mostly I came down because of Kidsfest," Young said, describing the area in the parking lot next to the co-op. "They had you make your own boat. Step by step, it was so easy to do. They have a piece of wood, and you sand it down. You drill the holes (for the mast) and you even make the sail. That'll be in his tub tonight."

Three-year-old Leonidas Young-Boyd pulled the boat down the sidewalk of Auburn Avenue on their way home from the festival.

"You got it, boo?" Young called after him.

Shoppers at the festival found a wealth of options to choose from, in addition to the usual art festival offerings. A sampling: vases of all sorts (felted vases and gourd vases, in addition to the usual ceramic ones); henna tattoos; and jewelry made from recycled copper plumbing.

Countless people at the festival Saturday seemed to agree: The art is great, but it's all the other stuff that sets this festival apart from others.

There's the food (everything from scrambled tofu wraps and mango smoothies to asparagus pitas and cake batter gelato) to the live entertainment (an accordion player, a stilt-walker and a string band, to name a few) and the down-home, neighborly feel of the event.

Lisa Wozniak lives near the festival and comes every year. Like so many others, she – unprompted – ticked off a list of reasons why she prefers the Elmwood festival to the Allentown Art Festival: it's smaller; she bumps into a lot of people she knows; the vendors are pretty much all local; and their wares include much more than just the standard art festival offerings.

She bought some wild mushroom sage olive oil, while her mother, Lucille Wozniak, opted for Tuscan herb olive oil.

Later in the day, the two stopped by Simone's Natural Creations to peruse the handmade soaps.

Lucille decided on a bar of castile soap, made of just four ingredients: olive oil, shea butter, Vitamin E and jojoba oil.

"People say, well, what tools do you use? I say, my hands," said proprietor Voncille Vanover, whose middle name is Simone. "People say, where's your laboratory? I say, my kitchen table.

"It was nice to hear people comment, ‘Oh, it's so nice that you're local,'?" Vanover said.

The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today on Elmwood Avenue, between West Ferry Street and Lafayette Avenue.