There’s a reason I set the biggest scene in my first novel at the St. James. It really is that cool. And on the first weekend in October, there’s not a place on earth I’d rather be.
I love walking among the neighborhood’s incredible Victorian mansions, breathing in the crisp fall air, redolent with the smell of warm cider, funnel cakes, and leaves. I love seeing what new things the 700 artists have made for us to look at and buy. I even like the energy of the crowd, which is substantial at more than 300,000.
My favorite thing to buy at the show is jewelry. I can’t afford the fancy gemstone stuff. But I like the hand made, hand hammered stuff, the long dangly earrings, the eye catching pendants. I have a couple pieces of art in my house that hail from the show, as well. Having something I know somebody made with their own hands means something to me. You just can’t get that feeling with something made from a factory in China.
I have a connection to the show, as well, both as a volunteer and a judge. I worked on PR around the 50th anniversary of the show, which started by hanging up a clothesline between a few trees all those years ago. They needed to fix the neighborhood’s beautiful central fountain, back then, and did the show as a way to raise the money to do it. Today, the proceeds from booth rentals for the show pay for all the maintenance for this historic neighborhood’s common spaces.
The neighborhood was once home to luminaries like the duPonts. And when you see the opulence of these mansions, it isn’t hard to visualize. The Conrad Caldwell House museum stands at one end of the neighborhood, and the Pink Palace (which is bright pepto bismol pink) stands at the other end. And yes, they really do book signings at the front of the Museum, just like I wrote in the book. And David Domine, who I assure you is very real, is always there signing his Ghosts of Old Louisville book. In the past, he really has done launch parties for his books at the Pink Palace.
Margue Esrock, who I’ve written into book one in the Eye of the Muse series as a cameo character, is the long time director of the show. She is one of my oldest and closest friends. She works all year to make it happen, lining up sponsors, handling the jurying process, and digging through the mountain of details it takes to make a show of this magnitude happen. Did you know, it is second only to the Kentucky Derby Festival in size? And it is always one of the top three art shows in the nation? People come from all over the world to display there. And getting in isn’t easy. Only one in four who apply are accepted to display.
If you’re in Louisville on the first week of October, swing by. It may just be one of the prettiest sights you ever did see.