It’s that time of the year in Bellevue. The fishing is good, the river is calm and summer is at its peak.
That means it’s time once again for the big Fishtival celebration along the Mighty Mississippi.
The big event will be held Saturday, Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. along the river walk area in downtown Bellevue, with a Ski Show and live bands later in the day.
According to members of the Bellevue Arts Council, Fishtival is a celebration of art along the Mississippi River.
There will be art work for sale along the river walk, including original paintings, drawings, ceramics, jewelry sculpture, woodworking and watercolors.
“Some of the works are pretty high-end pieces, like professional oil and acrylic masterpieces,” said David Eischeid, a retired art teacher who has been coordinating the event for nearly two decades. “There are a lot of regionalistic pieces that depict our farms, towns, rivers, livestock and bridges.”
New this year will be special projects inside the Great River Gallery, including painting and sculpture construction.
Well known artist Pat Costello prints and donated original artwork will also be featured at the GRG; as well as featured artist Lynn Montague, who currently has an exhibit up in the local gallery.
The arrival of a Mermaid at the gazebo will take place from 11 to 1 p.m.; while the local dance team will be selling lemonade to benefit the Jackson County Humane Society.
Music by the famous Razor Ray Theisen will provide a backdrop of sound as well.
Other highlights include the much anticipated arrival of the Mermaid, who comes to give out beads to children in Bellevue each year. Depending on water currents, the Mermaid usually arrives around lunchtime.
The Ski Bellevue shows starts at 4 p.m., followed by a street dance on Court Street sponsored by Lock 12 Music and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.
While next weekend is officially Bellevue’s 9th annual Fishtival Celebration, the event has been conducted in various forms for over a decade.
According retired art instructor Dave Eischeid, one of the founders and main organizers of the event, it all started with the “Bellevue Art Renaissance” in 2000.
The event featured artists, especially local children’s art in the beginning - and soon grew to over 30 artists filling streets from the brown gazebo, all the way to the white gazebo on north Riverview.
“In about five years, it became too big, and a lot of the ‘art’ wasn’t really art – it came from vendors selling wares using mass production methods,” said Eischied. “With the intent being about real artists, we had to scale back – it was growing out of control. It wasn’t what we intended.”
In the beginning the celebration was backed by the Chamber, until the formation of the Bellevue Arts Council several years ago. That’s someone suggested the “Fishtival,” with an emphasis on education and celebration along the Mississippi River.
During the first Fishtival in 2010, fish sculptures were created by professional artists and then painted by local residents. There was also a fish boil, fish cleaning demonstration and a silent auction of art.
The event was unique enough that it was featured on the Paula Sands Live television show that year,
At the 2011 Fishtival, the Department of Natural Resources provided tours and studies on fish traps and tours were given to the public on the Lock and Dam. A children’s bike parade was also part of the mix, as well as the first appearance of a “mermaid,” which continues to be a part of the celebration.
Last year, the official unveiling of a massive mural depicting the Bellevue War highlighted Fishtival, along with a portrayal of the historic event, which made national headlines back in 1840.