Anyone coming to the 2008 Foothills Fall Festival will find new vendors, new entertainment and some old favorite events and activities, all for free.
The Arts and Crafts area of the festival is situated on Broadway Avenue as it dissects downtown Maryville from Cates Street near Tomato Head to Founders Park near College Street.
Carolyn Forster, committee chair for Arts and Crafts, says there’s more than just crafts as the festival enters its ninth year. “One thing is for sure, it is surely not just crafts anymore. We’ve got a whole festival downtown that has plenty for every single person to have something to do, totally free,” she said. “And, we’ve brought back all the favorites.”
Forster said there’s still full-face painting. Folks can get their portraits done, and they can also have hands-on participation with authentic heritage crafters who then allow them to take something home from the experience. “You can listen to acoustic music all day long in front of Roy’s Record Shop. You can watch the show from our clown troupe in front of Dr. Bowman’s dentist’s office,” she said.
The newest addition to the craft area is Fairy Tale Photography. Laura Owens is going to be next to Tomato Head in front of the parking garage in what is known as the grassy knoll.
“She will set up an elaborate background with a beautiful fall scene with a reflecting pool. She provides costumes for kids up to 10 or 12. Children put on the fairy costumes and have their pictures made in this setting, and she digitally adds an orb that makes it an incredibly unique picture they can take that home,” she said.
Forster said the festival is providing that for children for free. “They then can go on the website and order additional pictures. That’s one of the things we have added this year.”
If visitors to the craft area see new faces among the vendors, it’s no mistake. “This is a unique year. Almost one-third of vendors are here for the first time. We’ll see new things with artists from eight states. There’s a lot of regional crafters,” she said. “We’re getting pretty wide-spread participation. I think everyone is going to be pleased with the quality they’re going to find this year.”
Forster said the festival has doubled the number of food vendors in the crafts area. “We will have Sweet Celebrations, Beef Jerky Outlet, Lenny’s Subs, hot dogs, hamburgers, kettle corn, funnel cakes. We’re going to have a wonderful celebration of food downtown,” she said.
When asked how the craft area has changed since it first started in 1999, Forster was quick to respond.
“The very first year, it was an afterthought to just provide a space for anyone who wanted to set up a tent and sell something. We are 180 degrees away from that. Now it is a juried show with a totally separate panel of jurists who select all of our vendors. It’s a very difficult process, especially because of the number of applicants and the quality,” she said.
The Arts and Crafts area’s primary jury is held after the first of May, which is considered the prime deadline for applications. “The last two years we’ve held out a few spots in order to provide room for late entries. We have a secondary jury on Aug. 15, and we sometimes have some really nice work we want to make room for,” she said. “It’s a limited number that we accept at the late date, but it allows us to bring in very unique things.”
Forster said the craft area has been a juried show for five years, but it was a difficult transition for some vendors. “We have lots of really good, high quality local crafters who perhaps only do this show, and this was new to them,” she said. “It’s been a difficult process to get used to for lots of them, but this is the way of life for any of your high quality shows. A great number of our participants are very familiar with this process.”
Forster said the biggest adjustment was for the committee charged with picking vendors. The individual members had to realize all the steps and the different qualifications needed for a juried show.
If the crafts area looks even more festive than normal, Forster knew whom to thank. “It’s going to be decorated by our garden clubs. We’ll have lots of photo opportunities. We’ll have areas designated as photo ops,” she said.
Forster said 2007 was the first year Arts and Crafts partnered with the Garden Clubs and she recognized Lisa Phipps for her hard work. “She’s been the liaison with the Master Gardeners and the Garden Clubs and her part of the committee is orchestrating all of our decorations and finding the demonstrators,” Forster said. “This is hands-on crafting. They’re not selling products but showing people how to do it and allowing people to take things home with them.”
Forster praised Edward Harper for volunteering to coordinate the music performances scheduled for downtown. “Edward Harper has been amazing to work with as a volunteer the last couple of years. This year he’s taken it upon himself to organize all the performers doing music, and these are the people who are at Rocky Branch and Music Row,” she said. “We’ve got a full listing of all of our performers who are volunteering their time in front of Roy’s Record Shop. What a perfect setting, with hay bales set out for people to sit and listen.”
Downtown merchants also once again get in on the action by paying a $25 fee and filling out a form. “We also want to promote our downtown and showcase what our local businesses do,” she said. “They can come out on the city sidewalk and showcase what their business does. That is also part of our festival.”
Forster said normally there are around seven business participants but more than double that have signed up. “We have about 15 businesses downtown that are participating. Lots of that is due to the Last Friday Art Walk, and the excitement that has generated and people are really enjoying our downtown,” she said. “That has encouraged these folks to participate in our festival as well.”
Forster said downtown during the Foothills Fall Festival is more than just arts and crafts.
And for those who have heard the festival is “Sold out,” Forster has just the ticket: You don’t need a ticket for anything in the Arts and Crafts area or the Children’s area.
“You don’t have to have a ticket to the festivities for our area or the children’s area. You could spend all three days just right there without having to have a ticket.”