New Northwest Arkansas Festival this weekend in Bella Vista

New Northwest Arkansas Festival this weekend in Bella Vista

Susan Malmin describes the flame work she does with glass as “hot, hot, hot!”

“I like to make the glass bubble and sing,” she says. “You’re not supposed to be able to do that, but I do. That’s the beauty of being self-taught: You can do what you want, because you’re not following anybody else’s rules.”

Her husband, Jay Malmin, is also a rebel, making art pottery using unusual firing methods and his own glaze mixtures.

The husband-and-wife duo will share a booth in the first tent at the first edition of the new Northwest Arkansas Festival, happening Sept. 22-24 at the site of the long-popular Bella Vista fall arts and crafts festival, 1991 Forest Hills Blvd.

It’s pretty clear from talking to Susan Malmin that she’s never colored inside the lines — although she did work as a color consultant. She says she’s had lots of jobs, lived lots of places, stumbled on to making glass beads at a little art gallery in Hawaii and pursued it as her chosen artwork while living in Anchorage.

“My husband and I had taken classes in fusing glass while we were in Hawaii, and we walked out and looked at each other, and I said, ‘I hate this and I don’t want to do it,’” she remembers. When she did discover the making of glass beads — sometimes known as lampwork — Jay told her he wasn’t paying for any more classes for her. She told him she could do it herself — and she did, making the process uniquely her own.

“I explore the properties and possibilities of molten glass focusing on color, design and texture,” she describes. “For 20-plus years, I have sought to never repeat the same bead design. Where is the fun in that? I consider myself an ‘experimental bead artist.’”

While pursuing her own muse, Susan bought Jay a gift certificate to a pottery studio in Anchorage, and he fell in love with working with clay.

“He’s had some of the best master teachers over the years, and now he does things like make his own glazes,” she says. “He does beautiful, beautiful work — some functional but predominantly art pottery.”

Dave Edwards, a wood worker himself, is the man behind the idea. He is also the former organizer of a pro/am professional/amateur? barbecue contest in Oregon and says he knew he could successfully bring back the festival — with some new twists. He recruited two friends, Rick Barnhart and Max Nelson, and they started planning.

“A lot of people were missing the Bella Vista Arts & Crafts Festival,” he says, explaining it shuttered its tents in 2021, due at least in part to covid-19. “I was feeling an itch to do something again, and I wondered why couldn’t do another big arts and crafts festival but add to it to broaden the appeal.”

“None of us have ever done an event like this one,” Rick Barnhart told Lynn Atkins of The Weekly Vista in May. “We’re sort of bumping around in the dark.”

The first step was to form a 501(c)3 so they could be an official nonprofit. Barnhart, who had run a nonprofit before, became the president, Atkins reported. Nelson is the vice president, and Edwards took on the dual role of treasurer and festival manager.

Their next step was to contact the Bella Vista Property Owners Association and Cooper Communities Inc., as well as Discover Bella Vista, which serves as the city’s advertising and promotions department. CCI owns the property where the Bella Vista Arts and Crafts Festival took place and agreed to let the new committee use it, according to Atkins’ story.

Edwards says after choosing Sept. 22-24, they didn’t really consider any other dates. Bikes, Blues & BBQ will be the same weekend, as will the second edition of the FORMAT Festival in Bentonville. He says officials expect 350,000 people in the area that weekend.

A couple of weeks out from his event, Edwards said he was looking forward to around 110 artists and crafters, food trucks, live music by Ozark Dragonfly, Rockin’ Roads Band and Terry Hilliard, a beer garden provided by Bentonville Brewing Co. and a “backyard amateur barbecue contest.”

Edwards says he had hoped for a sanctioned barbecue competition, but that didn’t work out this year. It’s in his plans for next year, though, along with hopes for 300 vendors, a kids’ zone and more. He will donate profits from this year’s event to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.

“There’s a need there,” he told The Weekly Vista, adding that the food bank will probably always be the festival’s primary beneficiary.

Based in Springdale, the Food Bank serves four counties in Northwest Arkansas and in 2022 distributed more than 13.8 million pounds of food and provided more than 11.1 million meals in its service area.

“Next year will be bigger,” Edwards says about the festival. He plans to start working on it the week after this year’s event.



Northwest Arkansas Festival

When: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 22-23; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 24

Where: 1991 Forest Hills Blvd. in Bella Vista

Cost: Admission is free; there is a $5 fee for parking


FYI: Tim Gray, former world champion barbecue competitor, will teach a class Saturday morning. Find out more at

Categories: Cover Story