For roughly a year, the Boulder County Fairgrounds, normally a hub of activity, largely stood empty, as the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to everyday life and events.
Saturday was a different story.
More than 100 people browsed handcrafted, colorfully painted bowls, jewelry, intricately decorated vases, chunky mugs and animal figurines as part of the Boulder Potters’ Guild 2021 Spring Show and Sale. The show, which features 40 artists, kicked off Thursday and runs through Sunday.
After the pandemic last year led to the show’s cancellation, artists and patrons on Saturday said they felt joy to see the show revived this year. The spring show normally takes place in May, but the guild pushed the date back a bit, due to the pandemic. Many who attended the event said they relished the chance to see one another face to face, even if those faces were clad in protective masks.
“Yip, yip, hooray,” said Lori Schuller, of Broomfield, when asked how it felt to return to the show. “I think this is the first event we’ve been to in about a year and a half.”
Schuller and her longtime friend Nancy Todd, also of Broomfield, have been coming to the sale for roughly five years — this year would have marked their sixth visit, if not for last year’s cancellation.
Todd said in the past the friends have always come to shop. This year, she said, they visited just for the opportunity to be there. Still, the friends appeared to have already had their eyes on several pieces for purchase, with Schuller’s mission to find a one-of-a-kind cup she could also use as a drinking mug for her bathroom.
The show marked the guild’s first to take place this year. While it’s not the only activity to resume at the fairgrounds, fairgrounds manager Joe La Follette said the Boulder Potters’ Guild show is the first larger event to take place in about a year. He said the fairgrounds was able to host some capacity-limited 4-H events with up to 50 people permitted in May. By June, La Follette said that capacity restrictions were no longer in place.
“We’re excited to see people back here again,” La Follette said. “I’ve been with the county for going on 28 years now. Seeing the fairgrounds sit empty and nobody on it for a year was probably one of the weirdest things I’ve experienced here.”
People who visited the show were asked to wear a mask indoors. Signs posted around the building also reminded people to social distance.
Rita Vali, Boulder Potters’ Guild president, said last year was a tough one for regular customers and the guild, which has existed for 61 years.
“We were shut down,” Vali said. “We had to cancel all our events last year.”
On Thursday, the show’s opening day, Vali said there was a line out the door, as customers eagerly awaited the sale’s start at 10 a.m.
“People were so excited, as I thought they would be,” she said. “We had one of our best sales ever for a Thursday in, I don’t know, 50 years. So many people just want life to be normal again.”
For artists like Willi Eggerman, it was a chance to talk about her art and share it with customers in person.
“It feels great,” Eggerman said. “I’m glad we delayed it a month. Everyone is feeling a lot safer, because more people are vaccinated, and we haven’t had to limit the people. I have missed the shows. The customers have told me how much they have missed the shows.”
Eggerman, of Boulder, crafts a number of items, including mugs, bowls and jewelry, but she says her signature work is her bird vases. The vases have a pin frog inside, which allows the user to poke flower stems into the vase.
“I’ve been making these for several years,” she said. “They’re cheery. They can welcome you into a room with just a few flowers.”
When Ashley Devery, of Boulder, saw the polka-dot mug sitting on the shelf, she thought instantly of her daughter.
Selecting the piece, handcrafted by Eggerman, Devery knew it would be the perfect accompaniment to her daughter’s kitchen.
“It feels amazing to be out — to finally be able to talk with people and laugh with people and find eclectic things. Everyone has been buying stuff online,” Devery said. “Who wants to continue doing that?”
She held up one of Eggerman’s bird vases as she said:
“You can’t find that online — it’s unique,” Devery said.
Across from Eggerman, artist Elizabeth Lazarus, of Boulder, talked with customers about her crystal work — the use of glaze with zinc particles in it. When the zinc touches the glass, it expands into different shapes and designs.
Lazarus has been showing at the spring sale for roughly 15 years. Like her fellow artists, she described how joyous it was to connect with people again at the show.
“It’s a blast,” Lazarus said. “It’s so cheerful. The whole atmosphere is joy. It’s like coming out of the tunnel into the sunshine.”
Know before you go
What: The Boulder Potters’ Guild
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Boulder County Fairgrounds, barn A, 9595 Nelson Road
For more information: https://bit.ly/3pwdcht