Arts in Motion draws large crowd to Niles

Published 12:23 pm Monday, June 25, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Self portraits, high flying angels, plenty of art, dancing lessons, historical digs at the Fort Saint Joseph site and a look at what our area was like in the 1700s. That pretty much sums up this past weekend in Niles.
The second annual Arts in Motion was held Saturday downtown, which seemed to be a big success this year.
"We are very thrilled. It was a wonderful second year. It was everything we hoped for," Lisa Croteau, Niles Marketing Director, said.
Croteau said people enjoyed the wide variety of arts available and that a lot of people from outside the area who had never been to Niles came to the event.
"I heard a lot of people say 'what a great multi cultural art event.' And that really put a smile on my face. People just walking down the street would call their friends and tell them to come down," Croteau added.
The French Market, which began at 9 a.m. Saturday and continued until 2 p.m., was a huge hit with everyone. Croteau said most of the food stands were sold out by noon.
"It was just such a great weekend. The weather was wonderful. It wasn't hot and sunny, which helped because I think the overcast brought more people down."
Croteau said last year there were a few hundred people in attendance at the event. This weekend, she estimated there was easily around a couple of thousand.
The fun-filled weekend was kicked off Friday night with a Block Party on Second Street, where Hm7 provided an evening filled with favorite hits from well-known artists like Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt.
On Saturday, many ventured downtown, where there was plenty to do. The Niles Performing Arts Center provided a day of dancing performances by its students, which was topped off with dance lessons for anyone interesting in learning the latest moves.
Artist were also on hand, drawing self portraits, painting temporary tattoos and showing off some of their best work.
But the hit of the weekend seemed to be the performances of the the Aerial Angels.
"I really like them. They do neat stuff and they are funny," Chelsea Moore, 11, of Berrien Springs said.
The Angels performed acrobatic stunts on the ground and in the air, involved willing participants in some of their acts and even ate fire.
Those looking for a little bit of history could do so by taking a trip to the river, where students from Western Michigan University held live digs at the Fort St. Joseph site.
Curious onlookers watched as the students kept busy, digging through six holes they have been examining since May. Some of their findings on Saturday included bones from different animals, metal nails, a stone fireplace and even a tooth, which they believed came from an oxen or a bison.
"It's hard to tell right now, but it's definitely a tooth," Western Michigan student Josh Massimino said after scraping away dirt from the tooth.
In another hole, Kelly Schulze was busy carefully scraping dirt away from a pile of oversized rocks, which she said once was used as a fireplace.
"We can tell this was probably used as a fireplace by the oxidized soil, which is a sign of repeated burning," Schulze said
Upon entrance of the dig site, many noticed a loud machine with pipes attached. This machine helps keep the dig site free of water, since it would be underwater if not for the drainage system.
On the other side of the dig, at the park by the dam, a living history village was brought to life, where demonstrations of life in "New France" were featured, as well as crafts and activities. Cooking demonstrations, colonial ceramics, live music and furniture and lifestyles of the fort inhabitants were on display.
"We're already looking forward to next year and so is everyone that was involved and attended. If anyone has any ideas I encourage them to let us know. We're hoping this can grow into our big summer event, maybe even bigger than the Hunter Ice Festival," Croteau said.