Cue the homemade birthday cake and local vineyard bubbly. Tour des Arts is 31 years old this year.

The nine-day celebration of the Townships’ artistic community, July 13 to 21 is, remarkably, more vibrant and successful the older it gets. There are returning participants who have been on the Tour since the beginning, many who have been taking part for years, some relative newcomers and five newbies. Together, they are 36 strong.

Many disciplines are represented, from woodworking and carpet braiding to raku ceramics, soapstone sculpture, handwoven clothing, functional clay art and photography. There are even people working with paint.

What they all have in common, apart from the love of creation, is the requirement to open their studios to the public for the duration and offer a hands-on demonstration of their craft once a day. They all must have a residence here – from the town of Brome Lake to the east side of Lake Memphremagog.

And all must commit to opening their doors to locals and visitors alike.

For newcomer Alan MacIntyre, this meant actually buying a home here. A native of Ontario who moved to Calgary for work 20 years ago, bought in Knowlton with his wife, Cathy (full disclosure: she is my sister) last summer and began the lengthy process of relocating halfway across the country.

He applied for inclusion on the 2019 tour, and was surprised he was accepted at his very first kick at this prestigious can. He set up a village home studio and got to work. Now, with the Calgary home on the market, he is getting ready for his first tour, with distinctive animal portraits on wood, and silkscreens he creates under the moniker of Loose Canine.

“I was very pleased to be accepted,” he wrote recently. “I’m not sure what to expect, but it seems to be a very well organized and thought-out event. The challenge now is to be prepared for it. Wish me luck.”

Robin Badger is ready. The well-known West Bolton potter has been a Tour vet for 23 years, and is one of the few who makes a living from her functional pottery and art pieces.

“The Tour put us on the map, continues to sustain us and brings us new visibility every year,” she says. “It’s like touching base with old friends.”

For more info go to tourdesarts.com