Festival Fun

Old Court Days offers antiques,
crafts, food and more for 43 years

Event has become a favorite
tradition for residents, visitors

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(May 2010) – As a real estate agent, Amy Ralston works hard to help families find the perfect place to call home. As an artist, she works hard on homes of a different sort.
Since 2006, Amy and her husband, Landon, have been crafting unique birdhouses perfect for decoration inside or out. While the Madison, Ind., couple’s first pieces were created as personal gifts for family members, “very quickly we started being asked if we sold them so we though we would give it a try and it was a success,” said Amy.
The couple started out focusing on the decorative aspect of the houses but soon began building ones that could also be used outdoors. “We get requests for birdhouses that attract certain birds,” she says.

Amy & Landon Ralston

Photo provided

Amy and Landon
Ralston make unique
birdhouses, which they
will be selling at
Old Court Days.

These birdhouses are a family project for the artists. Ralston, 29, describes the work with her husband as “a good team project for us. It allows us to be creative together and spend time together.”
She does much of the painting while her husband tends to focus on the building and woodcraft. In addition to their birdhouses, the couple also create “outdoor pieces such as potting benches and garden benches. We also built furniture such as reproduction step back cabinets, wall cabinets, and television cabinets.”
Once the items are complete, Amy and her mother market them at shows across Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. She believes the family birdhouses are popular because “they are unique, each birdhouse is handcrafted and therefore no two are the same.”
One show that has proven a particularly good fit is the Pilot Club of Madison’s Old Court Days festival. “We have participated in Old Court Days since spring of 2007. It has always been a success for us and we like being able to interact with the community,” she said.
The Spring Old Court Days festival will run May 28-30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day in the streets surrounding the Jefferson County Courthouse and adjoining streets. This year marks the 43rd year of the popular event that features everything from antiques and area crafts to garden supplies and homemade ice cream.
Show organizer Dee Gauger estimates that this year’s spring show will include about 100 vendors. Booth spaces are still available for those wishing to sign up. The fall version of the show attracts approximately 175 sellers and coincides with the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. The success of the show is illustrated by the enthusiasm repeat vendors have.
“Vendors are the ones who want it to keep it twice a year,” Gauger said.
Over the years, the event has become a favorite tradition for Madison residents and visitors with people coming from surrounding states to enjoy a day of outdoor shopping on the riverfront. “A lot will come every year and see what is new,” said Gauger.
Gauger explains that the festival started out as an area farmer’s market. “It used to be a lady would have the farmers bring over their wears to sell around the courthouse. Mrs. Goley, when she became ill, asked the Pilot Club to help,” she said. From its start of offering local fruits and vegetables, the market has grown to a popular arts and crafts event.
Over the past 30 years the Pilot Club of Madison has organized the festival, and it has become a successful fundraiser for the organization. Gauger explains that the money raised goes to support the club’s charities and projects throughout the year. Some of the beneficiaries of the club’s hard work include the Salvation Army and Girls Inc. The proceeds from Old Court Days also are used to fund area scholarships and the group recently donated to help a young boy suffering from seizures afford a specially trained service dog.
Gauger says that “95 percent of the money we raise stays in the community.”

• For more information, contact Dee Gauger at (812) 273-6226.

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