PERRY, Iowa — A town of fewer than 10,000 people may not be the type of place you'd expect to find locals gathering for poetry readings and art shows. But with the return of a beloved Perry tradition, that's exactly what you'll find.
On November 11, the town kicked off its annual Art on the Prairie festival, marking its 12th year with a return to form.
After hosting an online version two years ago and a smaller in-person version last year, 2022 was the first time the festival has been back to normal since the start of COVID.
"The arts festival, I think, was a big beginning, and then it just keeps growing. We find more and more talented people, we get acquainted with them," said Mary Rose Nichols, a local artist who serves as president of the Art on the Prairie planning council.
Art on the Prairie brought together 55 visual artists, 30 musicians, and 30 poets for exhibitions and sales in eight buildings around downtown Perry. Poetry was a new addition to this year's festival.
All that art attracts so many visitors that some call it Perry's biggest retail weekend of the year.
"It's really wonderful for our downtown revitalization to have more shops and more dining options for shoppers, and in addition to all of our local artists that are here. It's just a great weekend for Perry," said Lynsi Pasutti, a local artist who serves on the planning council for Art on the Prairie.
The festival is just one sign of Perry's thriving art scene. Vendors say they've seen more and more support for what they do over time.
"That's pretty amazing, I think, when that you can say that. It's a community effort that the whole community's embraced," Nichols said.
Art on the Prairie continues on November 12, with events running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.