Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

We'll Miss our Dear Friend, Sonny Dalton

Merrill (Sonny) Dalton died, 78, on December 10 at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo, MI, from complications of pneumonia. Sonny was a fixture in the art fair business for 41 years and only stopped participating in art fairs when his deteriorating lung condition, caused by a lifetime of welding, made it too hard for him.

Sonny was one of those people who made people want to attend art fairs. His ingenious outsider constructions of firetrucks, reindeer, people, trains, etc., made people smile. Men would stop in their tracks to examine their intricacy and then they would meet the man behind the sculptures, a funny, humble person who loved what he did and loved being at the shows meeting everyone. He and his wife, Roxie, probably were friends with more people in this business than anyone.

My husband, Norm Darwish, would go to his booth at the shows just to hang out because there was so much entertainment going on. We lived near him and traveled to many shows together. I

remember when we visited him in the hospital outside of Baltimore because he had got e. coli at the Timonium fairgrounds; I remember driving in tandem to Denver and him singing "Rocky Mountain High" over the CB; I remember him nearly selling out at Columbus Winterfair; I remember all the artists singing happy birthday to him when he turned 70 in Indianapolis before the show opened. I remember the throngs around his booth at many shows as people clamored for his pieces. He did his last show in December 2009 at the Great Lakes Art Fair and people were thrilled to see him. He was a celebrity. 

His work is in many museums, including the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, that exhibits his largest piece the "Rat Bike" -- a motorcycle tricked out like none you have ever seen that was commissioned for the museum.

Here's a little piece he made for me for my 60th birthday: "Connie directing an art fair"

Sonny, we will really miss you.

He is survived by his wife Roxie and their three daughters Jenny, Amy and Julie and seven grandchildren. Please email me for Roxie's address, or send messages through the Adams Funeral Home, 502 W. Michigan Ave., Paw Paw, MI  49079. Viewing will be at the Adams Funeral Home in Paw Paw, 12/14 from 5-7 pm. Graveside services will be at the Riverside Cemetery on December 15 at 1 pm.

Don't know Sonny? Visit this link, lots of good stories:

I know many of you knew Sonny. Please share your stories in the comments below.


Views: 4192

Comment by BOB STERN on December 11, 2011 at 1:49pm

So sorry to hear this, he was quite an inspiration to me.

Comment by Richard McCollum on December 11, 2011 at 3:12pm
I had the pleasure of knowing Sonny for 20 years of Art Shows and we were neighbors at some Sugarloaf shows for a number of years. He was always happy to see people's reaction to his Art. I will miss his sense of humor. Rest in Peace Sonny.
Comment by Barry Bernstein on December 11, 2011 at 6:05pm

Sonny was a veteran when I was starting out.  I had the pleasure of being next to him a number of times, usually in Florida.  What I remember is that he would always have an empty booth at the end of the show.  There are many out there that try to copy Sonny, but, nobody comes close to his innovation and creativity.

Comment by Bonnie Blandford on December 11, 2011 at 8:14pm

A great character and a wonderful man. He'll be missed...

Comment by phillip hall on December 11, 2011 at 9:28pm
Sunny, a fine man. Rip bro.
Comment by Nels Johnson on December 12, 2011 at 8:02am

He was his own man, they don't make many like him anymore.  Sonny, smoke all the pakalolo you can get your hands on brah! you deserve it.  Aloha,Nels.

Comment by Camille Ronay on December 12, 2011 at 9:33am

Sonny was a one-of-a-kind collectible. Many years ago, we looked forward to running into him & Roxy at shows. Probably the last time my husband got to talk to him was on the side of I-75 in N GA. We were zipping off somewhere and passed Sonny's cube van. Bill Ronay signaled him to the side of the road; and, they stood talking for 15 or 20 minutes. That was in the early '90s; but to this day, we still talk about Sonny Dalton. What a guy!

Comment by Larry Berman on December 12, 2011 at 8:00pm

We were next to each other at Jinx Harris Londonderry Faire 1988. I bought this piece from him at the end of the show. I liked him and the piece enough that I still have it 23 years later.

Larry Berman

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 12, 2011 at 9:50pm

I always loved his birds in the cages -- so cool.

Comment by STANFORD H BAKER on December 13, 2011 at 12:27am

a man never to be forgotten, one of the first


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