For two days in mid-December, the second annual Rockport Makers’ Festival will transform the seaside town into a sprawling celebration of art, food, and holiday cheer. Artisans from around the region will showcase and sell their work, a horse-drawn carriage will offer free rides, and a beer and cocktail garden will let shoppers sample locally made ales and spirits.
“It combines the cool, trendy art markets with the quaint New England festival experience of shopping and family,” says Ingrid Kinnunen, one half of Rusty and Ingrid Creative Co. and one of the festival organizers.
The festival began last year when members of the Rockport Cultural District, a collection of some 40 shops and galleries, wanted to find a way to highlight the arts and craftsmanship that have always been—and remain—an essential part of the town’s character. When the group noticed a weekend in December with no big holiday events scheduled, members jumped into action.
“We thought, if we bring together a really good holiday market, we can encourage people to buy local, handmade gifts, things that you won’t find at the mall or online,” says Rusty Kinnunen, the other half of Rusty and Ingrid and also a festival organizer.
This year’s festival will expand on last year’s successes. Last year’s makers’ market featured 34 vendors spread across two locations. This year, more than 40 makers will sell their wares in three venues: the Rockport Art Association, Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant, and Spiran Hall.
The goods on offer will range from hand-sewn leather bags and mittens upcycled from pre-owned sweaters to playful ceramics and colorfully printed kitchen towels. There will be plenty of jewelry for sale, as well as hand-crafted notebooks, pillows, wall art, babywear, and even custom wood bass guitars.
Also new this year is an increased emphasis on local food. Inside the First Baptist Church, community nonprofit the Rockport Exchange will hold a Holiday Makers Food Market, featuring packaged, giftable baked goods, coffee, sauces, and other treats. Outside of the church, in a heated tent, there will be drinks made with spirits from Gloucester’s Ryan & Wood distilleries as well as brews from Rockport Brewing, True North Ale, and Night Shift Brewing. Food trucks will park nearby for easy access to sustenance.
Brick-and-mortar businesses – more than 50 in total – are participating as well. The Rockport Candle Co. will hold a drop-in custom candle-making bar at which visitors can create a custom fragrance then hand-pour their own candles. The Close Quarters Collective, a group of four makers who sell their products in a small shop at the Whistlestop Mall, is featuring two pop-up shops and an art opening.
This collaboration between the event and existing businesses was part of the festival’s original philosophy, organizers say.
“A well-designed holiday market doesn’t have to compete with the local businesses,” says Rusty Kinnunen. “It can actually enhance the local businesses.”
The festival will also feature horse-drawn carriage rides on both Saturday and Sunday, classic children’s movies playing throughout the day at Spiran Hall, a holiday feature film showing on Saturday night, and surprise pop-up events throughout the weekend. Rusty and Ingrid will run a free do-it-yourself screen-printing activity and other artists will do ongoing demonstrations.
The festival’s focus on makers and their work is a natural fit for Rockport’s character and heritage, says Mechelle Brown, community engagement director for the town and another of the event’s organizers.
“This helps write our story and tell our culture and our history,” Brown says. “This is the destination where artists come not only to create but also to share their love, their passion, their joy.”
The Rockport Makers Festival runs December 14 and 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Admission is free. For more information, visit rockportmakers.com.