I have been looking forward to summer in Kenosha since I moved here last year. Since I hadn’t settled in until late August, I missed a lot of the fun. The number of summer events in the area is bonkers, from Kingfish baseball games to Twilight Jazz concerts.

Last Sunday, I kicked off the season with the Good Old Summertime Art Fair, put on by the Kenosha Art Association. It was a cool but cheery day at the Civic Center Park downtown.

As I wandered around the rows of booths, I met dozens of creative people from across Wisconsin and Illinois. I met a woman named Jean Kay who takes old lace and “upcycles” it into framed art. I met jewelry-makers, water-color painters and a couple who make scented soaps from goat’s milk.

I was in the market for some decorations for my garden, in my ongoing efforts to make my house a home.

From Gary and Lori at “Wood N Stuff,” I bought a cedar bird house and a finch feeder. I asked Gary how he got into wood-working and he said it was a natural transition from a career in construction. “This is why no one should ever retire,” he said, smiling.

A little while later, I found “Barb’s Dusty Nook” with an array of colorful ceramic lawn critters. Barbara explained that the figures are cast from a mold and then she paints them with an airbrush.

Our yard could use some whimsy, I thought. So, I bought a large grinning turtle with a gnome and a dragonfly on his bright red shell. I knew my husband would give me the business when he discovered this, which added to my amusement.

I wondered why it means so much that a wood-worker hand-crafted my bird house, and that I was able to meet the lady who painted my lawn ornament. I think it has to do with the humanity built into such handmade items and the connections between people.

Craft adds goodness to an ordinary day. And, it’s never too soon for a bit of beauty — or silliness — in your life. In fact, it’s about time.

A day after the art fair, my spouse noticed the shiny new artifact, hiding among the shrubs near our house.

“Where did that lawn gnome come from?” he said, as if this was the most ridiculous waste of money.

“It’s not a lawn gnome,” I corrected. “It’s a smiling turtle with a little lawn gnome on his back. And, it was the first one like it.”

“Is that what they told you at the garden store?” he asked.

I told him I didn’t get it at the garden store. I got it at the art fair. I explained about Barbara and the airbrushing.

“Well, then, that’s OK,” he said, changing his tune. “You’re supporting the local arts community.”

The next day, he insisted that Mr. Turtle be placed at the front of the house, as a welcome to anyone who comes to the door.

Amy Ambrose writes this column monthly and can be reached at amy@amyambrose.com

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