ST. JOSEPH — Year after year the Krasl Art Fair returns to Lake Bluff Park in St. Joseph, and year after year it’s volunteers that make it happen.

“We use over 400 volunteers,” Volunteer Coordinator Nicolina Holt said. “And finding people to not get paid to show up can be difficult, but we are lucky for the coordinators and core committee members because they give tons of time before the fair even starts working on things.”

One of those volunteers, Cindy Jakeway, has been a coordinator for the art fair for 14 years, since she started working at The Krasl Art Center.

For the fair, she co-coordinates the Emerging Artist booth, which features art from high school and college kids.

“We usually recruit the students at the middle and high school art show at The Box Factory,” Jakeway said. “It’s gotten bigger and bigger every year. It’s just fun working with the students.”

This year there are about 20 kids who worked all year to prepare to sell their artwork this weekend.

Jakeway of Bridgman said being at the art fair and around the kids is a crazy, but awesome experience.

“It’s so much fun to see all the patrons come, and you get to interact with all of the artists and they’re from all over the country,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful time.”

She said she doesn’t know if she’ll coordinate the emerging artists forever, but no matter what, she’ll volunteer for the art fair.

“I love the Krasl Art Center,” Jakeway said. “I love their mission statement. I love the art in the community bringing them together. It’s just a fun place to work.”

Apart from Jakeway and her co-coordinator, there are about 23 other core committee volunteers who coordinate the different parts of the fair, like guest services and safety.

Heather Marschke of St. Joseph is in her first year of coordinating the artist registration. A long-time volunteer, she stepped up this year into the new roll.

“This is my first year being the coordinator, so it’s been a little crazy, but I definitely like it,” she said. “The job is pretty much Friday and Saturday. I just register them in. But before that, I get the list all together and I get packets made for them. If they need anything, that’s what I’m here for.”

Stephen Gunter of Benton Harbor, whose day job is at Home Depot, works as the parking and barricades coordinator.

“I make sure no one gets in that isn’t supposed to get in and keep all cars out. I also make sure everybody knows where to park,” he said. “It’s a little stressful and some people don’t listen sometimes, but it’s fun. I enjoy it.”

He got involved six years after he was looking online for a volunteer opportunity.

“I started out working the desk at The Krasl Art Center, then they made me an intern, then they made me a coordinator,” he said.

His first four years he coordinated the ice and water.

He said the people are what makes him keep coming back year after year.

The people are also why Don Margoni, booth-sitter coordinator, keeps coming back.

“And it’s kind of nice being in a position where you can see the total picture and the work from the beginning to the end,” he said. “Like when you’re talking with the city about where work can go, what rules are going to change and who is going to do what. You get to see the whole process through the end, including tear down.”

Margoni of St. Joseph is retired and started volunteering for the fair about eight years ago because his son was involved with the Krasl.

He’s done a little of every job from greeter to now coordinating the booth sitters, who make sure the artists have water, answer any questions they may have and occasionally help them if they need a break.

“The thing I tell the booth sitters is to have fun. There are periods where it’s going to be slow, but enjoy the crowd, enjoy the people and answer their questions as well,” Margoni said. “Because it makes you more of a part of the art fair and part of the community. I look at this as more of a community event than just the Krasl, because it’s the community that volunteers to make it happen.”

The Krasl Art Fair continues today 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman