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Kempenfest delivers


Barrie's lakeshore was packed on the weekend, as thousands of visitors took in the arts and crafts during the 40th annual Kempenfest.

Kimberley Sweeney was one of those visitors, and she said it's a unique experience.

"I come down to see the arts and crafts, and to see the local artists," she said. "It's just to see unique things you don't see anywhere else."

Sweeney, a Barrie resident, said the event showcases what city artists and crafters have to offer.

"It's not like buying from Sears or The Bay where everyone is buying the same sale items," she said. "It gets people noticed and shows people what we have available in the city."

Sweeney said the festival is a tradition for her, and the city benefits from the yearly event.

"It's things like this that attract people in (to the city)," said Sweeney. "It brings people out in the masses, and they get to experience the waterfront."

Local painter, Alicia Wishart, has set up shop at the event for more than six years, and said home is where the art is.

"It's a local show, so it's always nice to be at home and see familiar faces," she said. "You never hear bad things from other vendors about Kempenfest. Everybody likes it."

Wishart has called the city home for 20 years, and said her style of painting has always been well-received at the event.

"It's nice because you get a lot of people to see your art really fast," said Wishart. "You can hear first hand what they're saying, what they like and what they don't like. It's nice to get the good feedback."

Wishart attends similar events in the province, and said Barrie has developed a reputation.

"I've meet people at shows all over Ontario and they come here to Barrie for Kempenfest," she said. "It definitely does attract people to Barrie."

Gerry Mongeau has been a part of the event for seven years, and said he doesn't mind the drive from Sudbury.

"I find it very good every year, and interesting. I love to come here," he said. "The people are very nice."

Mongeau's hand-made wooden toys have been a hit, but over the years he said the city and atmosphere is what brings him back.

"What draws me here is the new vendors, the people and the food," he said. "It's a good spot to come. There are more people every year. The people are very friendly here. I like it."

Sandy Paproski said the event is relatively new to her, but has become a yearly routine.

"Last year was the first time I came down, and I came everyday," she said. "I've lived in the Barrie area for 10 years and never came down."

Paporski said the event has something for everyone.

"We've come down for specifics. We're looking for specific art things," said Paporski. "I'm not looking at the jewlery, but tons of people do, so it all depends on what you're looking for."

Event co-ordinator, Tom Aikins, said event attendance showed the city's support.

"From my perspective, it's been better attendance than past years," said Aikins. "It went great all weekend long. The crowd has been strong"

Aikins said this year's extended entertainment was a crowd pleaser.

"Our evening concerts were well attended," he said on Sunday. "The crowds have been non-stop all day long."

The event's growth is limited by space, but Aikins said there's always plans for the future.

"Our challenge right now is we've run out of real estate," he said. "We are always looking at ways to enhance the festival."

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