We've already introduced you to five of these talented artists, but as we get ready for another week of this limited-time festival, it's time to meet even more of them. Their one-of-a-kind artwork, decor and home goods are one of the major reasons Travel & Leisure named the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival, presented by Humana®, The Best Fall Festival in Missouri!
Learn more about each artist and make plans to visit them during the festival, which continues Wednesdays - Sundays through Oct. 27.
Taking a break from his latest work of art, Mike Sears reflected on his lengthy career as a painter.
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” he said.
A self-taught artist, the Indiana native spent more than 30 years painting custom and show cars. He’s since retired and moved to Niangua, Missouri, and for the past 18 years he has been a staple of Silver Dollar City’s fall festival. This year, you’ll find him on the Square, where you can watch him demonstrate.
Instead of painting cars, Sears now paints on wood. Most of his paintings are on kiln-dried basswood from northwest Wisconsin, a canvas he chose for its unique look and feel. Rather than a frame, his paintings are surrounded by the tree’s bark – including some pieces that still have moss on them.
Sears says the wood “makes for a good finished product,” and he enjoys the look of the bark surrounding his art. But he also enjoys giving back to the community. More than 40 years ago, he heard an advertisement seeking donations for a local telethon benefiting Indiana charities. He grabbed a paintbrush and painted a picture on a stoneware jug, and sent it off to raise money for a good cause.
He’s since donated over 1,000 paintings to charity, raising countless money for those in need.
“He’s very creative,” said Sue Sears, his wife of 53 years. “His art is a gift to him and everyone else who has seen it.”
Be sure to see Sears’ art on the Square before the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival ends on Oct. 27.
Though Leroy Wilkerson has only been making rugs for about six or seven years, he’s had a lifelong interest in the craft.
When he would make the three-mile walk to school in the 1950s, he would occasionally stop at a classmate’s house. The boy’s mother had a floor loom set up in the house, and the rug-making contraption piqued Wilkerson’s interest, but he never chose to do anything more than observe.
After he finished his education, Wilkerson spent 38 years as a manager for a lumber company. Once he retired, he moved to Lake of the Ozarks and spent his days fishing. But he was looking for something more fulfilling, and got serious about pursuing that craft he discovered as a boy. He asked a master weaver what kind of loom to get and started shopping around, finally locating one in Phoenix, Arizona.
He drove more than 1,250 miles to the desert, disassembled the loom himself and brought it back in his SUV. Since then, he’s purchased four other looms and has improved with each rug that he creates.
It now takes him about eight hours to make one rug, and his record is making 280 in a single year.
See Wilkerson on the Square through Oct. 27.
Cheryl Cooper joked that she can divide her painting into two eras — B.C. and A.D.
B.C. stands for “Before Children." After she became a mother, her free time dropped considerably. A.D. is short for “After Driving,” when her kids could drive themselves and she had much more time to pursue her passion.
Cooper has always enjoyed antiquing and painting, so it made sense for her to combine the two.
Her booth on the Silver Dollar City square is filled with vintage products that she’s found at antique stores across the country, and hand-painted them herself for a truly unique and custom creation.
Now in her ninth year at Silver Dollar City, the Perryville, Missouri, resident says she’ll typically create anywhere from 800 to 1,000 pieces for the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival. About 500 of them are large pieces primarily used for home décor, while 300-500 of them are Christmas tree ornaments.
She’ll travel to antique stores in states like Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky looking for new and different products that she can paint on. While each of her antiques is unique, there’s a common theme.
“Whatever the antique was used for, I try to bring that into the painting,” Cooper said.
You’ll find Vietnam-style military helmets with patriotic imagery like eagles, snow shovels and sleds adorned with snowmen, and vintage hubcaps with paintings of the cars they once belonged to.
Vintage baseball gloves contain images of famous teams, dairy boxes are covered with pictures of farm animals and fish and lake imagery are carefully illustrated on oars.
Her ornaments feature winter imagery painted on things like muffin tins, silverware and gelatin molds.
Cooper will be on the Square through Oct. 27.
Crafting has always been in Lisa Viveiros’ blood, she just didn’t realize it until a few years ago.
Her mother, Gail Stanifer, has been crafting for nearly 40 years, most recently creating beautiful wooden fall and Christmas décor. Viveiros, meanwhile, didn’t pick up crafting until about seven years ago.
“I didn’t even know if I could sew a straight line,” Viveiros joked.
After helping her mother set up for a craft show, Viveiros got a sewing machine and some patterns. Not only can she sew a straight line, she joined her mother in creating décor — only she works with burlap.
With their two skill sets, they’re able to create a broad range of seasonal décor like yard lights, door hangers, dolls, ornaments and more. With so much variety, they have two booths on park this fall.
You’ll find pumpkins, scarecrows, ghosts and other fall and Halloween décor in one booth near the Hospitality House. Next door is a winter wonderland filled with snowmen, angels and candy canes.
“It’s fun to make it,” Viveiros said. “When it comes together, it puts a smile on your face.”
Viveiros lives in Springfield, Missouri, while her mother lives in nearby Ava. Their crafts will be available at Silver Dollar City through Sept. 30.