Sept. 25 2013 12:00 AM

Chelsea hosts Ghoultide, largest Halloween art show in Midwest

Halloween fanatics itching for the end of October can unleash an undead groan of relief. The Ghoultide Gathering in Chelsea on Saturday unofficially launches the mid- Michigan Halloween season. It’s kind of like advent, but with more ghosts and witches.

The 7th annual art show features 36 artists selling Halloweenspecific work. The event has gained in popularity since

its inception in 2007, outgrowing its former location in Northville and attracting over 1,000 people last year. Ghoultide has become a prime destination for the niche community of Halloween art collectors in the country.

“We started getting calls from artists in California, Florida, Ohio — all over,” said Scott Smith, co-organizer of the event. “And these people have collectors who will come to see them at the show. They are unique, high-end artists.”

Smith said the content on display is focused less on the blood-and-guts aspect of Halloween décor and more on art of lighthearted nature. He said the crafts range from handcrafted knick-knacks up to specialty pieces with four-digit price tags.

“There´s a quality of craftsmanship at Ghoultide that we look for in the artists we select,” Smith said. “We have people standing in line to get the best stuff from their favorite artists.”

Smith said that many of the artists devote a large portion of their annual output to create works to display at this show, the positive response is easily visible, he added.

“When you open the doors at Ghoultide, it´s like a running of the bulls,” said Pam Gracia, a five-year veteran artist at the show. Gracia, like many of the artists present for the event, has fans coming from all around the country.

“Last year I came with 98 pieces and went home with 11,” Gracia said. Smith gave two reasons for the success of Ghoultide: the specific audience and the range and skill of artists. Pieces include woodcarvings, papiermâché works, paintings and sculptures.

Smith said that the relatively small scale of the show isn´t for a lack of artists wanting to get in, but because of his selectivity.

“We try to keep it limited to control the quality of the works,” Smith said. “We don´t want too many similar products or people just doing whatever the current fad is.”

As both an artist and an event organizer, Smith worked in California with Ghoultide´s co-organizer Bill Gilmore, gaining a following before moving to Michigan and starting this event. And his reputation preceded him.

“When I got an email from Scott asking me to do the show, I thought, ‘This can´t be from Scott Smith,’” Gracia said. “He´s everywhere. He´s on the cover of magazines. They should have a whole separate line just for his booth at Ghoultide.”

With this event, Smith has created something that is part the indelible Michigan event map: Traverse City has the Cherry Festival, Holland has the Tulip Festival and Chelsea has Ghoultide. The atmosphere is certainly more festive than your average craft fair. Halloween decorations cover the pole barn, and Ann Arbor group The Appleseed Collective will perform live music. That festive spirit also seems to extend beyond the event, with part of the proceeds from this year´s show going to Ozone House, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides services for at-risk youth.

“We just wanted a way to use the event to give back, and hopefully we´ll be able to donate to an organization every year now,” Smith said.

Ghoultide Gathering

Chelsea Fairgrounds 20501 Old US-12 Highway, Chelsea 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 $5 general admission/$20 early buy (8-10 a.m.)