Midwest Fire Fest sculpture

Ed Klein, owner of Bur Oak Pottery in Johnson Creek, and Mark Skudlarek, owner of Cambridge Wood-Fired Pottery in Cambridge, build the first Midwest Fire Fest sculpture in July 2016.

Cambridge is heating up this weekend.

More than 5,000 people are expected to visit the village July 27 and 28, for the fourth-annual Midwest Fire Fest.

The fire-themed art festival in downtown Cambridge is put on by the Cambridge Arts Council. It will run Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and July 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Westside Park, 300 W. Water St., Cambridge.

Admission to the festival is free, with ticketed events happening throughout the weekend. All art at the festival is created using fire, including pottery, glass-blowing, metal works and barrel-charring.

Laurie Struss, president of the Cambridge Arts Council and the festival’s coordinator, said Midwest Fire Fest offers something for everyone including live music, on-site art demonstrations, food carts, a massive art vendor show, a farm-to-table dinner, fire dancers and a sculpture reveal.

“We are part makers fair, part art fair and part music festival. It’s a groovy mix,” Struss said in an interview in April.

Live music over the two days will be performed by the Oak Street Ramblers (bluegrass), Driftless Fire Tribe (country/bluegrass/folk), The Josh Harty Band (Americana), The Family Business (rock), Mama Digdown’s Brass Band (jazz), Lou Shields (Americana), Val Sigal Hot Power Polka (solo accordion) and Small Blind Johnny (blues).

The selection of food carts at the fair will be open Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The festival displays the work of more than 20 fire-based artists, coming from states like Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, Struss said. Visitors have the opportunity to purchase their work, and possibly see them in action.

“There’s a reason we call it Midwest Fire Fest instead of Cambridge Fire Fest. It’s truly bigger than we are,” Struss said.An annual tradition at the festival is the creation of a massive fire sculpture, revealed Saturday night and placed in town after it’s completed. This year, Bur Oak Pottery from Johnson Creek created the nearly 1,000-pound sculpture.

Potter Ed Klein opened Bur Oak Pottery in 2002, with his wife and fellow potter Laura. Klein worked as a decorator at Rowe Pottery Works in the 1980s.

This is Klein’s third time crafting the sculpture for Midwest Fire Fest. The first two years of the festival, he sculpted a dragon statue and a piece modeled after the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Klein said the process is laborious. He usually creates models and scales the piece, then builds from the ground up, finishing parts of the statue as he goes. Once part of the sculpture is finished, Klein said, there’s no changing it.

Klein said involvement in a festival like this is valuable.

“It’s another opportunity for other artists to bring their work,” Klein said. “Hopefully people will get a better understanding of the effort that goes (in).”

“It’s nice when we get the people and the public to come out and show their support for people who go through the effort,” he continued.

Midwest Fire Fest is also known for its live art demonstrations. Workshops and demos run Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visitors will get to see how artists mold and pour one ton of iron, craft knives, char barrels for distilling, forge tools, use historic bellows, blow glass.

Cambridge potter Ric Lamore will hold one of these demonstrations, teaching a firing technique called pit-firing. In this process, Lamore builds a kiln out of a pit in the ground and fills it with pottery pieces, sawdust, wood and paper. Covering the pit with a metal top, he fires pieces overnight and reveals the pottery 24 hours later.

“The fact that we’re showing people how things are done helps enrich their lives,” he said.”If they do buy a piece… they have something to say about it.”

“You’re educating people on what it takes to be a working artist; it’s not as easy as we want to think it is. That’s part of our legacy, educating people on what artists actually do,” Struss said.

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