The fair was incubated at the Crabapple Restaurant, one of the first establishments to open in Bellevue Square. The Crabapple was designed with an art gallery motif, and its walls were filled with works by Northwest artists. Owner Carl Pefley, former manager of the Washington Press Club, found himself acting as an art dealer, selling paintings and then choosing replacements. Since he and his wife Pat enjoyed art shows, it was only natural that they start one of their own.
In 1947, the first Bellevue Arts & Crafts fair was held beneath the large madrona tree in front of Pefley’s restaurant. Dudley Carter’s Bird Woman sculpture was the highlight of the fair. Carter’s 12-foot Forest Deity had already been installed as a symbol for the new mall earlier in the year. Some 30,000 people attended the first fair, and almost twice as many came in 1948. From that time on the numbers of attendees grew, and the Arts & Crafts fair quickly became a Northwest tradition.
The 60th Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair was held on July 28-30, 2006. The fair featured 325 artists, craft demonstrations, food, and a Kid's Fair at the Bellevue Art Museum. Arts represented include ceramics, drawing and pastels, fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, metalwork, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, wearables, and wood. Proceeds from the three-day event support the Bellevue Art Museum, providing one-third of its annual operating budget.