| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin |

The ladies at Chocolate Moonshine Co. and their unfairly wonderful fudge.

Karen Kiley at the Chocolate Moonshine Co. booth ruined my keto diet with a sample of her orange bourbon fudge. I have been doing well on keto since January 2nd – feeling great, thinking great, losing weight – and I’ve lost a taste for sweet sugary things, until now.

“Would you like a sample?” she asked.

“Thanks. How about that orange bourbon,” I said pointing. A sliver was all I needed in order to write that I tried it. It was delicious, not grainy like other fudge I’ve tried which is why I never cared for fudge. This was smooth, creamy, orangey, and bourbony. I wasn’t expecting this and I was ruined. I wanted more.

Richard Weaver and Qaila Pant staffing the Dexter Rotary booth where folks can buy a raffle ticket for the historic playhouse.

“We use less sugar than other fudge makers,” explained Karen when I asked her what made it so good. “We use pure cane sugar which prevents it from being gritty. All of our ingredients are natural and organic.”

The proof was in the tasting and I was glad the Lapeer, MI, based confectioner showed up to Dexter Daze. Keto would still be there tomorrow. I nibbled some black cherry bourbon fudge and moved on walking away with more than a pound of different flavors of fudge I’ve never heard of before. I was knocked off keto and I couldn’t be happier. Everybody needs to visit their booth. Your future self will thank your past self.

Mark Savio of MuckSwaz Metal Art

I paused at MuckSwaz Metal Art and chatted with Mark Savio about his colorful metal art.

“These pieces are steel and the different colors are created by heating it to different temperatures with a torch,” he explained.

Mark retired from a career in printing a few years ago. Someone gave him a welder and he began welding little outdoor garden knickknacks made of horseshoes, wires, and bolts. That quickly evolved into art.

Ben Dorstwitz at the Out of the Barn booth featuring artwork rendered from reclaimed wooden pallets.

“Somebody told us you should sell those things,” Mark explained. “So we thought, ‘What the heck. Let’s try it.’ We set up a booth at a craft fair and sold a bunch of things. It suddenly became a lot of fun and that has driven the progression.”

I walked away with two wall hangings. It was still early on opening day of Dexter Daze but the booths were already humming with a quickly growing crowd.

The food court is a mouth-slavering variety of food choices.

Dexter Daze began a century ago as Sidewalk Days where merchants would collectively offer sales on their goods to promote business. Like a lot of things, it fizzled out over the decades but was revived again at Dexter’s Sesquicentennial in 1974.

The festival has shifted from its prior days as a sidewalk sale to more of an art fair, but I can’t imagine any of the downtown merchants complaining. Business is humming for everyone it seems. I’m glad I got my coffee early at Joe and Rosie’s.

Jerry and Jill Miller and their mandolin-playing daughter at Paul’s Gourmet Jerky are way to happy, and it’s infectious.

I sampled the goods at Paul’s Gourmet Jerky from Kent City, MI, over by Grand Rapids. Jerry and Jill Miller, neither of whom are Paul, were behind the counter and are infectiously cheerful. This is their fifth Dexter Daze and they love it. “We spend out summer traveling around to different places selling jerky and Dexter is one of our favorite places,” said Jill. “We love coming here.”

And yes, I made a purchase. I try to figure out if the food around here really does taste better or if its because it’s festival food that makes it better. In the end it doesn’t matter. I’m happy with my purchases.

Local photographer Kelley Boyes finishing up a sale.

The Dexter Wrestling Club tempted me with popcorn. Not wanting to mess with these guys, I donated a few bucks for them not to sell me any more carbs. I wouldn’t want to face any of these guys on the mat.

I was amazed at how far away some of the vendors had come. Ben Dorstwitz at the Out of the Barn booth came from Holland, MI. I had always assumed Dexter Daze was more of a local thing but as I talked to different vendors I learned that our summer event is being heard of further and further away. One artist was here because of being told about it at a show on the other side of the state.

DO NOT mess with these guys.

But it’s not all out-of-towners at Dexter Daze. Photographer Kelley Boyes had a booth where she and husband Barry had their hands full selling her photographs of local wilderness areas as well as further out, like Alaska.

So if you haven’t gotten down to Dexter Daze yet, I hope you get a chance to take a little time and stroll among the booths munching on your Dexter Wrestlers popcorn, taking in the sights, the sounds, and enjoying the surprise meeting of those friends you didn’t expect to see.

See you downtown!