— George Cooper
In spite of recent accounts as told by our calendars, only now has the miracle of autumn officially arrived; at least, in my opinion.
For those whose brows have furrowed at this blatant disregard for accepted seasonal tradition (I speak of Sept. 22), please allow a sentimental old coot this time of discretion. Dates of the calendar come and go, but I personally know the hallelujah season is upon us when the Nillie Bipper Creative Arts Festival rolls around.
May I be among the last to announce ... the Nillie Bipper Creative Arts Festival has rolled around.
This tribute to all things country, anything down home and everything good ol’ boy good is coming this weekend — Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tri-State Exhibition Center just down the road from that big moviehouse with the giant Cokes and expensive popcorn.
I have always adored the Nillie Bipper, not to be confused with Billie Nipper, the beautiful lady who founded this testament to hometown arts and crafts, good food and family entertainment 45 years ago.
For the record, I have likewise adored Billie Nipper ... seemingly as much as her show. For anyone who doesn’t know her — and those are few and far between — Billie is one of the most gifted, natural talents alive with a paint brush. I’m not talking about the kind of whitewash you splash on barns and fences. I’m talking the framed beauty on canvas that only the most creative of minds and talented of touches can capture.
For any whose eyes have been graced by the soft appeal of Billie’s work, you know how she can bring life to anything on a matte. Over the decades I often wished for that kind of talent — to be able to imagine in my mind and then give it form with a collection of itsy-bitsy brushes that flow as extensions of her fingers.
Maybe in another life. Perhaps in the next universe. Until then, I’ll stick to sloshing paint across our house and storage shed, as well as indoor trim, outdoor railing and anything else where perfection is a dream and latex is a way of life.
Besides, my wife believes I’m an OK painter. She appreciates my work from a practical perspective. I clean up my messes. I offer little, and sometimes no, opinion in regard to color and shade. I labor until the job is done. I take few breaks. I don’t rob the refrigerator. I try not to complain about lower back pain. I enjoy listening to soft music while I work. I hardly ever whistle.
And I am cheap. Well, you know what I mean.
To this day, I still get a chuckle at my wife’s first introduction to Billie Nipper. It came decades ago. In a past stint at this newspaper, I had written a column about Billie. I had as much fun writing it as she must have had reading it. That weekend at her show — back when it was still held at Red Clay State Historic Area — we ran into Billie. She gave me this huge, and ever-so-appreciative, hug.
In this lifetime, never have I made a personal practice of rejecting free hugs from nice ladies. I wasn’t about to start with Billie.
After our knowing embrace, Billie glanced over at my wife with open mouth and shocked eyes and shrieked, “Oh, I’m so sorry! You must think I’m terrible for hugging your husband!”
My wife laughed, and with a reassuring grin, she offered, “You can have him!”
I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean it. Besides, Billie wasn’t taking in strays at the time. She still had plenty to keep her busy with raising a family, painting, tending to the Nipper horses, traveling back and forth from Shelbyville, and helping to plan the next arts and crafts show.
This self-taught artist and portrait painter of all things rural, and anything horsey, has a knack for excellence. Those who attend this weekend’s Nillie Bipper will understand when they drop by her booth. And while at it, strollers will be in for a treat at the wide variety of homespun arts and creative crafts throughout the spacious Tri-State facility.
It’s supposed to be gorgeous weather with a strong hint of autumn in the crisp air, especially Sunday.
The good folks at the Cleveland Creative Arts Guild, and president Dale Dotson, as well as Billie, have once again worked tirelessly to bring a relaxing respite to Cleveland life.
Their efforts are always sincere. Their smiles are forever warm.
Yeah, it’s autumn alright. The Nillie Bipper is here.