MANDAN, N.D. — Thousands of people began their Fourth of July celebration a day early in downtown Mandan as the annual Art in the Park Festival kicked off Thursday.
Under sunny skies and temperatures hovering near 80 degrees, organizers estimated nearly 10,000 people had passed through Robert Dykshoorn Park and Heritage Park by late in the afternoon.
Held in conjunction with Mandan's Rodeo Days and the Fourth of July festivities, nearly 130 booths were spread throughout the park.
People crowded the walkways picking through various crafts, novelties and, yes, some booths with artwork. Others gathered around the Mandan Bandshell to take in local artists performing throughout the afternoon.
Sitting quietly under a simple white tent, flanked by more than two dozen paintings and taking in the scene, was Robert Frost Paris, known locally as Frosty.
Paris, a Mandan resident, began what became known as Art in the Park more than 40 years ago.
"It's a forum where you can show and tell, so to speak," he said.
Paris said the event was actually a business idea that came to him when watching Mandan residents milling around the park after the Fourth of July parade.
"They were potential buyers of art. It was a business decision," Paris said.
The next year, he came to the park with some landscape paintings he'd created, thinking people might be interested. The following year, a couple more joined him.
Over the years, it snowballed into the large-scale event it is today. He said it doesn't have as much to do with paintings as it had when he started out.
"If you have the right product, you can do a lot of good business here," Paris said.
He enjoys the event although the market for his paintings may be somewhat limited. He commended the volunteers who help put the event together each year as well as the community's backing, which has allowed it to assimilate into the city's annual Fourth of July festivities.
"It's its own little thing," Paris said. "No one else has a park on Main Street."
Friday's hours for the Art in the Park festival are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Mandan parade begins at 10:30 a.m.