"Much in Hutch" is a longtime slogan used to market the town. With the arrival of social media, it became a hashtag: #muchinhutch. 

The words are no truer than this weekend where one visit nets you four once-a-year opportunities: Arts and Crafts Festival, Taste of Hutchinson, Friends of the Library Used Book Sale and Crow River Habitat for Humanity's second annual Barn Sale.

Mary Hodson, president of the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said the Arts and Crafts Festival attracts about 12,000 people each year. It's the big draw, of course. It's hard to believe it started in 1974 and has been been going strong for 45 years. 

While much has changed through the decades, the focus on creativity and handmade remains the same. More than 100 exhibitors including 28 new vendors will set up in Library Square beginning at noon on Thursday, with the festival opening at 10 a.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.

"We have some vendors coming from new states, a couple of jewelry artists, so we are excited to have them join us after Grow Touhl retired after last year," Hodson said. "The surge of repurposed and home décor is very strong again this year. Guests will find longtime favorites as well as new trends. We also have a number of returning vendors who have taken a year or two off. It is fun to welcome them back and we are pleased to know our show is well-liked and thought of."

In case you're looking for the vendor map to plan your shopping strategy early, it won't be posted until Friday. 

"We usually get a rush of calls on Monday (the week of the festival)," Hodson said. "The Little Falls show is always the weekend before ours. So depending on weather and/or word-of-mouth, we can get an average of six new vendors from that event right up until our event. This is why we don't post the vendor map any longer. Too many last-minute changes and adjustments are being made. We want it to be as up to date as possible when the vendor map goes live, which now doesn't happen until Friday morning."

If you're inspired by all the creativity, you can flex your own at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts table where guests can print their own postcards. It will be set up 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday near the information tent at the library steps. 

Hutchinson has a long tradition of volunteerism. According to Hodson, it takes 70 some volunteers to make the Arts and Crafts Festival happen.

"What guests don’t see is the park being marked and labeled on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday morning volunteers helping us set up our check-in tent, and wayfinding signage to get our vendors where they need to be for check-in," she said.

Hodson also gave a shout out to Hutchinson Police Services.

"We absolutely could not do this without their help," she said. "The coordination of traffic, vendors, open streets, closed streets. Seriously, they are phenomenal. Sgt. Joe Nagel has been doing this event way longer than I have and his team has it covered and covered well. We always get compliments from guests and vendors about how impressive it is to see the police out, working to help everyone and their kindness. That goes a long way and people recognize it."

When it comes to favorite moments, Hodson said for her it's when they have completed set up for the Arts and Crafts Festival, and she goes to the check-in tent by Faith Lutheran Church.

"I see trucks, TVs, trailers all lined up to start the process," she said. "I always take a photo to commemorate the moment. Then it's back to a frenzy of activity again."

TASTE OF HUTCHINSON

Tired and need a break? Hungry and looking for lunch? The Hutchinson Ambassadors have it covered Friday and Saturday with Taste of Hutchinson, an outdoor food court set up along First Avenue between Main and Hassan streets. Picnic tables provide a much-appreciated place to relax and regroup. 

Two new food vendors are welcomed this year. The Hungry Draft, which won "Best New Food Vendor" at the McLeod County Fair, is dishing up cheese curds and other items. Eat Me! Drink Me! is selling crepes and roasted sweet corn. 

Returning favorites range from Hickory Hog and Mister Lemonade to Nuttin Like it and Ruhland's Strudel Haus. Joining them are local nonprofits: the Lions, Lioness and the Elks. Buffalo Wild Wings is pouring beer and adult beverages.

MEET THE MUSICMAKERS

The Ambassadors enhanced their presentation a couple of years ago with the addition of live music. This year's schedule features:

  • 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Friday: Mona Hjerpe and friends John Rodeberg, Steve Olcott and Brian Brosz
  • 4-7 p.m. Friday: Sawyer's Dream
  • 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Saturday: Taylor Jordan
  • 1:15-3:30 p.m. Saturday: "Off-Duty Chief" Tim Eggebraaten 

Hjerpe is making her first appearance Friday on the Taste of Hutchinson stage with friends John Rodeberg, Steve Olcott and Brian Brosz. The group has been playing together off and on for at least 15 years.

"We'll be doing a nice variety of music," she said. "Jazz, folk, contemporary Christian and some American songbook standards, easy-listening music."

Hjerpe started singing in junior high school, performing in church and school choirs.

"I've been doing it ever since in a variety of different venues and groups," she said.

Next up for the band is The Awaken Benefit on Monday, Dec. 1, at Zellas restaurant. 

"It's a fundraiser for local charities and it sells out every year," Hjerpe said. "Tickets will be available Nov. 1."

In addition to playing at venues such as the McLeod County Fair and Crow River Winery, Hjerpe is a longtime member of the music and worship team at Faith Lutheran Church. It's something she's done since she and her family moved to Hutchinson in 2000. 

Hjerpe's special love of sacred music brought her to Exultate, a chamber choir and orchestra founded in 1996. It is the only professional choir in the Twin Cities with a self-contained orchestra.

"They do choral music like the 'Messiah' and 'St. Matthew's Passion,'" she said. "I've performed with them four different times. You start rehearsals in January and right around Easter the performance happens. It's an incredible experience to be part of." 

Hjerpe appreciates the variety.

"Between singing at church and singing fun music at a variety of venues in town, I'm thankful for all the opportunities to do that," she said. "It's a great mix of music."

'OFF-DUTY CHIEF'

Eggebraaten is becoming a local household name. He performed at last year's Taste of Hutchinson, and he with Kat Perkins headlined in April at "An Evening of Mental Wellness with Motivation and Music."

Eggebraaten's moniker is "Off-Duty Chief." It's a nod to his previous career — 24 1/2 years — with the Detroit Lakes Police Department. He became a police officer in 1992 and served as a DARE instructor, patrol sergeant, investigative sergeant, K-9 handler and chief of police from 2011-2016. He retired in November 2016. 

Rather than stepping back from the limelight, Eggebraaten has stepped up to share his message of wellness and balance as a motivational speaker and entertainer.

Like Hjerpe, music has been part of Eggebraaten's life for as long as he can remember.

“My parents always said I started whistling before I started speaking,” he said in an earlier Leader interview. “I always have a song in my head. ... I’ve been singing all my life, playing guitar for 30 years and entertaining professionally for 16 years."

Come Saturday, expect to hear a variety of music ranging from country hits such as "Stand By Me" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" to rock 'n' roll favorites such as "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Blue Suede Shoes."

"Music is something I’ve known for many, many years," he said. "I love how music brings people together. It sets the tone no matter what walk of life you come from. That rhythm, harmony and beat translates really well into our lives.”

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