Festival showcases local artists, brewers

Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2009

Teresa Busch has a proven talent for appropriating plants for fashionable purposes. A three-time winner of Juneau's Wearable Art Show and owner of The Plant People, a downtown business that offers plant care services and fresh flowers, Busch's haute couture nearly always bears evidence of her green thumb. She'll be tapping her talents in millinery at this Saturday's Autumn Festival, where her booth will feature fancy hats made from aspidistra leaves.

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Courtesy Of The Plant People
Courtesy Of The Plant People

"It's a huge leaf you can wrap around your head to make the band, and then you can add to that to make the top of the hat," she said.

Busch said she's participated in every Autumn Festival but one since it started six years ago.

"The fact that Rachael (Juzeler) got this thing going is just awesome; I love the whole thing," she said.

Juzeler, a local artist and brewer at the Alaskan Brewery, schedules Juneau's autumn festival to coincide with the autumnal equinox, which falls on Sept. 22 this year, and with the end of tourism season. The free event celebrates local treasures of all kinds: arts and crafts, food, beer and community arts organizations.

For the first few years, Juzeler held the festival outdoors, at the cruise ship dock, but happily moved it to its current rain-free location, the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, last year. The new venue not only made room for more vendors, it also allowed Juzeler to coordinate the festival with the Autumn Pour Homebrew Awards, giving her the chance to enjoy two of her fields of interest - art and beer - in the same place. Juzeler, who has worked at the Alaskan Brewing Co. since 1997, recently had a solo show at the Juneau Douglas City Museum and has another one in the works. She is both a professional brewer and a homebrewer (she's partial to mead) and helps coordinate and judge Brewfest in Haines every year.

This year's beer garden, hosted by the Rendezvous, will feature not only Alaskan Brewing Co.'s beers, but also a selection of beer from Specialty Imports. Those who participated in Coastal CODE's beach cleanup, held the morning of the festival from 9 a.m. to noon, can receive a free beverage of their choice.

New at this year's festival is a children's "Sparkle Garden" where kids can make their own Izzy-type beverages and participate in craft activities.

Food choices will include breakfast sandwiches from Costa's Diner, pozole from Chef Steph, and brownies made with local berries from The Glory Hole.

Busch said she'll be offering non-alcoholic mint mojitos at her booth for as long as supplies last, partly to take advantage of a bumper crop of garden mint, and partly to celebrate the glory of this past summer.

"I've been here 18 years and I think this summer was the best ever," she said.

In addition to leaf hats and mojitos, The Plant People will be offering flower head-wreaths for young girls, edible flower sugar cookies, big bouquets of mixed flowers, and tea made from homegrown rosemary, orange peel and flowers.

Another vendor, Michele Drummond, also plans to showcase this past summer's bounty with a batch of rhubarb-ginger conserve. She'll be giving away free samples at her booth.

Drummond said she may also stage a mini tag sale, offering board games and other underused items from her household.

"We don't play them, so I might as well get rid of them," Drummond said. "I'm keeping Scrabble; that's about it."

New vendor Michelle Donohue, who makes handcrafted soaps and solid lotion bars, said she uses local ingredients whenever she can. Peppermint from her garden goes into her Pioneer Peppermint soap, and she uses calendula petals for the floral varieties. Her Kitchen Soap includes ground and brewed Heritage Coffee, an ingredient that she says adds an abrasive and odor-absorbing element for dispelling the stink of garlic, onion or fish.

Donohue, an accountant by trade, said she has long loved crafting of all kinds and that after she started making her own soaps and shampoos a few years ago, she found it so enjoyable that she kept at it.

"I've been doing it for two years, and as of Friday it's going to be my full-time job," she said.

She would use more local supplies if they were available to her in large quantities, she said.

"If I could make fish soap, I would," she said.

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