Bayfield, a Mighty Wind!

Bayfield Arts Festival (July 29 & 30, 2006)

By Jill Miller

We go up to Bayfield every year and rent a house for about a week — I treat it as a working vacation and do the Festival of Arts on the weekend. Bayfield, WI is so far north it’s abnormal for it to be really really hot. But, when we arrived on Friday it was 100 degrees. We waited until evening (by which time it had dropped to 95) to get the tent set up at the little park. I had the space I always do, my backdrop was the beautiful harbor, Lake Superior and Madeline Island.

Saturday was not bad, hot but not 100. Sunday morning it rained. We got to the show and it rained. There were scary dark clouds in the sky. (“They don’t get tornadoes in Bayfield…”). Some fog horn thing started going off in the harbor. Coming from cornfields I didn’t know what it meant, but it meant “BOATS! GET YOUR ASSES BACK TO LAND, A BIG ONE IS COMING TO DESTROY US ALL!” I didn’t know that. So it starts raining harder, the wind’s picking up, we zip up the sides and hold on. Rain starts pouring in under the tent. The wind picks up. We hold on because the tent is lifting up. We were zipped up on the inside of the tent so we didn’t see what was happening or coming but I think it might have hailed for a little bit, that or just really hard rain. The wind kept getting stronger, I was hanging (all of my weight) on the tent and it was still lifting. And so I let go. I think Geoff and I both let go about the same time but who knows, it all happened very fast. And so I let go and sort of ducked out of the tent’s way (tried to back out — didn’t know if I would get smacked in the head by flying watercolors from my neighbors) the tent went up and sort of collapsed in a heap on the rocks just feet from Lake Superior. The rain didn’t quit, there was broken tent everywhere, most of the tents along the water did end up IN the lake. None of them remained standing. Of the 90 artists maybe only 10-15 had their tents undamaged. Anyone with pottery, painting or watercolors got most of their work completely destroyed. Luckily, the only injury (in the whole town) was a fractured wrist. Amazing!

I spent the next day (along with Geoff, his mom and Tera) at the Laundromat (4 hours, 12 loads of laundry, 8 dryers and $40 in quarters) and ended up with minimal damage — some holes, some mud stains, a few soggy pillows, a broken mirror and a trashed tent (oh, and a few bruises).


Monday morning I walked around the town and took pictures of uprooted trees, a de-roofed church and piles of art show debris. It was not an official tornado but the damage is very tornado-like. It could have been a wind sheer. Someone called it a wind wave, a big wind started at the top of the hill (Bayfield is a big hill) and just picked up momentum rolling down the hill through town until it bowled over the little art show and rolled into sea. It was scary. We are slightly bruised but considering everything VERY LUCKY. And very lucky the dogs were with my parents back at the hotel.

And so, I’m in the market for a new art show tent.

This is what it looked like last year, peaceful enough for a nap, and nice mild weather.

bayfield6 bayfield-pillows

This is what Saturday looked like:


My “backyard”:

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Sunday, the show started at 10:00, by 11:20 this was the view from the back.  We didn’t get pictures of what was heading our way…

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And then the storm hit and within five minutes it was all over — except for the rain, it kept up the rest of the day…


bfdstorm2Check out the tent on the right. Is that a Light Dome?

This is what the park looked like Monday — the first couple of pictures are of at least 50 smashed tent frames:

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… the same frames from a different angle and a downed lamp pole:

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… downed trees and a bench that’s seen better days:

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Sunday afternoon (after some calming down), we sorted the batiks by color…


and then spent four hours Monday at the Laundromat...


Here’s the damage to my tent frame. The sides and roof have holes from the gridwall (I think)…


More damage in town…


See the circled house?  It used to be surrounded by trees — one being the twisted tree in the next photo. The blue tarp is covering the church roof…

bayfieldtree bfdChurch

There were many, many trees just pulled out of the ground…


After the storm, the clean up and the laundry we got to relax a little:
Morty’s Pub! (Deep fried pickles…huh?…and tasty Whitefish Sandwiches)


Scenic boat ride of the Apostle Islands…


and a Bike ride in Orchard Country…bfdbike

I plan to go back the Bayfield next year and even request my same booth space!  Maybe we’ll get a snowstorm…

For more information:
More photos from Bayfield’s Web site
Bayfield Daily Press Article and a follow-up article
and a link to the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce’s Bayfield Relief Fund.

Here is the letter that the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce sent out to all participating artists — very nice: