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Lawn art calls to Village Walkers

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There’s a secret club in Yellow Springs that’s been meeting for 10 years. Walking and chatting all over town, club members are almost indistinguishable from the rest of the villagers. Some members wear shirts printed with the simple club logo. Others wear pins that signify club-sponsored achievements. The easiest way to spot members, however, is from their sensible shoes.

The Village Walkers of Path ’n’ Glen is the name of the Yellow Springs chapter of the American Volkssport Association.

“We joke that volkssporting is the best kept secret in the United States!” said Maria Varandani, president of Village Walkers.

According to their Web site (http://www.ava.org), there are thousands of volkssporting clubs around the world. From the German word for “people’s sports,” the non-competitive activities include walking, swimming, biking, and skiing. A “volkswalk” is a 3.1 mile (5 kilometer) or 6.2 mile (10 kilometer) walk. It’s not a race, there are no pledges, and participants can walk with others or alone.

“I go every weekend,” admitted Varandani, who did her first volkswalk in Glen Helen in 1987 and has been an avid member and club promoter ever since. “The best thing about a volkswalk is that it’s not a race. You go at your own pace. I have met a whole new set of friends just from walking. You fall in step with someone you didn’t know and then you get to know them.”

The Ohio Volkssport Association publishes a bimonthly journal, which is available at the Yellow Springs public library. The journal lists all the events happening in the mid-America region — Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The local Yellow Springs chapter sponsors one or two events a year.

“I like to piggyback the walks onto some wonderful event because Yellow Springs has so much to offer,” said Varandani. The club has sponsored walks to the circus, Young’s Dairy, a haunted house, and Street Fair. “Some people are die-hard walkers and will walk straight through [the course] and not look right or left, but at least we’re offering them something more than just walking through the neighborhoods of Yellow Springs.”

Events are free and open to the public. Participants register at the start table where they receive a start card to carry with them on the walk. If a participant wants to receive credit for the event, the fee is $3. Routes are clearly marked and include checkpoints where participants can get water and have their start card stamped. Event coordinators stay until all participants have finished. Walkers are given ample time to rest, eat, shop or sightsee.

For enthusiasts who are interested in events farther out, The American Wanderer newsletter, also available at the library, is published six times a year and lists all volkssporting events in the U.S. and Canada.

“The American Volkssport Association logo reads: Walk for Fun, Fitness and Friendship,” said Varandani. “That pretty much sums it up.”

Village Walkers are excited about their next club-sponsored event as it combines walking with Art On the Lawn — a first for the club. Walkers will meet on Saturday, Aug. 9, at Yellow Springs High School between 7:30 a.m. and noon and must finish the 6k or 10k walk by 4 p.m. For more information, call 767-7605 or contact villagewalkers@yahoo.com.

Sue Brezine, member of the Village Artisans Co-op, which sponsors “Art On the Lawn,” was thrilled to hear about the collaboration. Rising gas prices have had a negative impact on art shows everywhere as artists — and art-lovers — decide whether participation in a particular show will be worth the travel expense. Brezine received a healthy number of applicants from artists all over Ohio, as well as Florida and Alabama, and news of the combined events was very encouraging, she said.

“Village Artisans is a co-op of 19 artists,” Brezine explained, “and we have been -putting on the juried art show for 26 years. The show’s proceeds help to support us through the winter months when sales are slow.”

A juried art show means that artists send in pictures of their work and a committee of artists decides if the work is up to Village Artisans standards. “Everything has to be original artwork done by the artist,” Brezine said.

This year’s Art On the Lawn will feature photographers, glass blowers, stained glass artists, fiber artists and wood turners. “There’ll be stained glass boxes, Shaker boxes, ceramics, glass beads, jewelry, and mixed media,” Brezine added. Local oil painter Roger Smith will return for his 15th year with the show.

“Art On the Lawn” is well-respected by artists and art-lovers alike for several reasons. Other art shows take place on cement or a blacktop parking lot, which can get uncomfortably hot in the summer. “One of the nice things about having [the show] at Mills Lawn School is the beautiful trees,” said Brezine. “We try to keep all of the artists under the shade and on the grass. It’s a lovely setting. It’s very nice that Mills Lawn School has allowed us to have our art shows there all these years.”

Applications are accepted up to the day of the show, and the fee is very reasonable. Artists pay a jury fee of $15 and booth fee of $65 before May. After that, the booth fee is $75. “The fee for some of the big shows in Columbus and Cincinnati is in the hundreds of dollars,” Brezine said.

But probably the best reason why artists are so devoted to “Art On the Lawn” is because of the way they are pampered.

“Sometimes the artists come by themselves so we provide booth-sitters,” said Brezine. “Artists will take care of their space while they take a break. We also have a wagon of water going around all the time. We have vendors serving food and drinks right there. We do everything we can to make it comfortable for them.”

The event’s reputation as a smooth-running operation is no accident.

“I think we have the best co-op ever!” exclaimed Brezine. “‘Village Artisans Co-op’ is a perfect name for it because we do cooperate with each other.”

Art On the Lawn will take place at Mills Lawn School lawn from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9. Admission is free. For more information contact Village Artisans at 767-1209.

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