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A soaring passion for the arts

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By Stephen Swofford

Robert Palmer has raised falcons since he was 12 years old. Over the past 40 years, he has raised and released every species of falcon it is legal to own. He photographs these and other birds in the wild for a living, and on days like today, he and Achilles, his 4-month-old gyrfalcon, man a booth at the Evergreen Fine Arts Festival.

Set amid the evergreens in Heritage Grove, this year’s festival featured 118 different artists and drew more than 4,500 visitors on just the first day of the two-day event.

“It's a beautiful festival,” said Julie Glassman of Grand Junction, who won best in show in jewelry. “I hope to return next year.”

This year’s fest, the 43rd annual, had one of the best turnouts and the highest quality artwork in several years, according to the Evergreen Artists Association, which organizes the festival each year.

More than 300 artists applied for space, which the EEA then narrowed to 118 to allow more open space and higher standards of art than some other festivals.

One artist, Dennis Johnson, drew a substantial crowd with his moving metal sculptures, which took advantage of the windy weather.

Johnson's sculptures won first place in his category this year.

Johnson was a stone sculptor for 15 years before transitioning to steel due to arthritis and a fascination for objects moving in the wind.

“(Stone) polishing is very labor intensive, and it's hard to straighten my hands now,” Johnson said. “With the metalwork, I'm only limited to my imagination right now.”

As Evergreen's longest running and most recognized arts festival, the Fine Arts Festival draws large crowds to take in the artwork, live music, and, of course Achilles, who may become a regular attendee.

“If everything goes well, he will become more dependent until he doesn't need me; otherwise I'll have to keep him,” Palmer said. “I love raising them; I'll be doing it when I'm 90.”

Palmer, of Lyons, is equally dedicated to his photography. Though many fellow artists and art appreciators have suggested Palmer raise his prices, especially in the faltering economy, he likes the idea of his artwork being accessible to the general public.

“That's what it's all about,” Palmer said. “Sharing your passion.”