HutchFest draws people in search of practical and eclectic handiwork

August 27, 2018

A brief rain shower Sunday morning failed to dampen the enthusiasm or turnout for HutchFest in Omaha’s North Makerhood District.

Judy Forbes of Shawnee, Kansas, came to the third annual outdoor trade fair to sell planters and shelves. She and her husband, Carl, operate Hound & Hatchet woodworking.

“This crowd has been awesome,” Forbes said. “I love Omaha. It’s only our second time here, but it really seems friendly. It’s raining, but people still show up.”

Organizer and furniture-maker Nick Huff expected 6,000 to 8,000 people to visit the area just north of TD Ameritrade Park between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. There were open houses at Bench — a public woodworking shop — and the nearby Hot Shops Art Center, Omaha Heartland Bicycle, the Fashion Institute Midwest, Reclaimed Enterprises, Wood Chaser and Metropolitan Community College.

Huff, co-owner of the Hutch store at Midtown Crossing, said the Makerhood location is so logical that HutchFest might have found a permanent home in its third year. Previously, HutchFest had been held at Turner Park and the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.

“We work with so many great local makers that have great products,” Huff said. “We’re glad to help them show off their work and introduce people to the Makerhood.”

The Makerhood is intended to foster a creative synergy among the residential, industrial, commercial and public spaces there.

The rain that started about 10:45 a.m. lasted just a few minutes. The people who took shelter under one of the 250 vendor tents or in nearby buildings quickly returned to strolling along a half-mile of blocked-off streets between 13th and Nicholas Streets and 11th and Grace Streets.

Beth Shepherd, a program planner at Metropolitan Community College, welcomed people inside the former Midco Supply building at 1141 N. 11th St. There they could browse and buy metalwork, ceramics, jewelry or re-upholstered furniture turned out by Metro students and instructors.

“We’ve been here just over a year, and this event will help the people of Omaha learn about all the great work being done down here,” Shepherd said. “The Makerhood District is definitely something Omahans should take advantage of and embrace.”

The mother-daughter team of Judy and Amy Haney operate Haney Fine Arts next door to the Metropolitan Community College space in the former Midco building.

Amy Haney, an printmaking instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said she and her mother moved to the building from Hot Shops Art Center at 13th and Nicholas Streets because they needed more space. She makes woodcut etchings, and her mother paints abstracts.

“Woodcuts are one of the forgotten arts that have fallen under the radar,” Amy Haney said. “My goal today is just to let people know we are here and educate them about printmaking and woodcut etchings. I just hope that (HutchFest) is inspiring and gets people to think outside of their box.”

Sandy Dennis of Omaha pushed a carriage with two grandchildren down the middle of 11th Street. She hadn’t made any purchases but was enjoying the event’s cool vibe.

“Other than the rain, which you can’t control, this is very nice,” Dennis said. “There’s lots of variety. It’s kind of like a cross between Junkstock and a farmers market.”

Whitney Tiedeman and Mikey Taylor of Omaha said they were pleasantly surprised by the large number of vendors from out of town. Tiedeman showed off a deer skull and antlers she bought for $45.

“I’ll find a good place for this on the wall,” she said.

Alicia Hanson and her 9-year-old daughter, Campbell, were also pleased with their finds. Campbell bought a miniature cactus, and her mother came away with a chair from TimberSmith Goods.

Hanson said the chair cost $200 and is going in her bedroom. She was drawn to the piece because of a knot on the seat.

“The imperfection is what grabbed me,” Hanson said. “I saw it. It looked really beautiful, and I had to have it.”

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