After several moments of careful deliberation, Bud and Gloria Elmore decided on the $3,500 piece of fruit.
The pear the couple purchased Saturday was made of bronze, roughly the size of a watermelon, and displayed next to a $4,500 cherry that was just as polished.
For Gloria Elmore, the sculpture was worth every penny.
“I have just the spot for it,” said Elmore, 70, a Naples resident. “I thought I might have a spot for the cherry, but my husband thought the pear would be better.”
The sculptures of produce were among thousands of art pieces at the 7th annual Bonita Springs National Art Festival. The oversized tomatoes and Granny Smith apples were created by West Palm Beach artist Randi Joe Grantham and fared better than most exhibits displayed at the Promenade in Bonita Springs over the windy weekend.
Artists kept vigil over their displays as 20- to 30-mph wind gusts blew throughout the day. Several artists reported damage due to weather. Lynette Cordisco, 55, held onto her husband’s 50-pound garden sculpture as she tried to brace herself against the wind.
“It’s keeping me anchored for now,” said Cordisco, a West Palm Beach resident who wore a bright red parka and gloves.
Robert Cordisco, 58, spent three weeks creating the sculpture out of welded aluminum. The piece was painted fire-engine red and named “Stoked.” The sculptures, including a $6,500 bright yellow piece titled “Sun Dance,” were bolted into cement platforms and withstood the wind gusts.
Naples artist Angelika Kade wasn’t as lucky.
Kade lost seven of her stone sculptures after her tent was blown over in the wind Saturday morning and she estimated her losses at $15,000.
“I was a little nauseated this morning,” said Kade, 61, who originally is from Germany and displays her work in a Naples art gallery.
Kade was hopeful she would make up for some of her losses as she watched hundreds of prospective buyers plod by. Each year the art festival attracts thousands of visitors and Saturday’s event was no different, as local residents flocked to the festival bundled up in jackets and scarves.
“This is a wonderful show. The jewelry is outstanding,” said Jessie Dalmon, a Bonita Springs seasonal resident, who lives part of the year in Michigan.
Photography, watercolor and oil paintings also were on display. About 30,000 people attend the festival each year at the Promenade at Bonita Bay. The event is sponsored by the Bonita Springs Art League. More volunteers were needed to handle this year’s crowd, said Susan Bridges, the league’s executive director.
“There’s just a steady stream of cars,” Bridges said.
Most of the 209 artists at this year’s festival weathered the wind fairly well, she said. “They come very prepared for events like this,” said Bridges, who pointed to cement weights that one artist had used to tie down his tent.
Timothy Sullivan was less optimistic.
“When it’s gusting like this, anything could happen,” said Sullivan, a clay artist from Georgia. “There’s about 20 tents that got hit pretty hard. ... I feel fortunate to still be standing.”
Admission and donations were accepted at the event and proceeds from the art festival go to benefit the art league, which hosts the event in January and March.
Last year’s January event raised about $89,000 and the money goes to benefit the league’s extensive art programs, said league president Jeanne Bradley. The art festival has seen drastic growth since it began in 1999 and more than 900 artists from all over the country applied more than six months ago to display their work in this year’s show.
“We’re very pleased with the growth,” Bradley said.
Only 209 people, including artists from as far as Israel and Canada, were selected to display their work.
“We have been very, very careful in our selection of who we let come here,” Bradley said. “So the quality really is top drawer.”
The festival will continue today at 10 a.m. Attendees will get a chance to view the artwork that received awards during Saturday’s judged competition. The Best of Show award went to Dennis Davis, an oil painter. The Best of 3-D award went to watercolor painter Diana Hsu and the Best of 2-D went to sculptor Jack Hill. Judges also gave 12 awards of distinction.