Alla Tsank came to Evanston from California.

Mark Cleveland came to Evanston from … Evanston.

For both of them, the trip was worthwhile.

Tsank’s paintings won “Best in Show” at the 9th annual Art & Big Fork Festival in downtown Evanston over the weekend.

Cleveland’s paintings also won an award.

The Friday-Saturday-Sunday event saw 130 booths along Sherman Avenue and Church Street, with painters, jewelers and other arts-and-crafts-makers displaying and selling their wares, along with hoping to win a ribbon from the art show’s judges.

Tsank described her work as reflecting “elements of nature embracing females.” She’s been painting for 20 years, and comes to the Midwest every summer on the art show circuit.

One of Alla Tsank’s paintings in her “Best in Show” portfolio.

Cleveland began painting nature scenes as well, but when COVID hit, he pivoted to urban landscapes.

“I started walking around town,” he explained, “and painted scenes from the area.”

Evanston artist Mark Cleveland with some of his urban landscapes.

His favorites? “Anybody with a sign that’s as old as Route 66.”

While the Art and Big Fork festival never went away, even during the Summer of COVID in 2020, it was scaled way back that year, down to just 50 booths, along with health and safety protocols for those who attended.

Now, said Amy Amdur, whose Amdur Productions puts on this and more than 20 other festvals in the Midwest, it’s “back to normalcy,” with food and events for children as well as the art booths.

Many of the participants do go from show to show, setting up and taking down their booths.

Custom jeweler Kelly Jacobson, from Naperville, attends about half of the shows in this area.

“A lot of people tell me to do the Michigan shows,” Jacobson said, “but why do that when we have the North Shore shows?”

This particular event had a wide variety of price points, from about twelve bucks for a small piece of jewelry, to $8,500 for Tsank’s painting, “Flower Queen.”

A customer who only wanted to be called “Ann B” spent $400 on a “reclaimed wood mosaic,” which she saw on Saturday, and came back Sunday to buy.

All in all, particularly with the nice weather drawing lots of attendees, the event was a success.

“I had,” said Cleveland, ” a great show.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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