Big changes are coming to the Arts and Crafts area of the Foothills Fall Festival, beginning with the name.
Planners are changing the name of the section to ArtWay to better describe what the Arts and Crafts area has evolved, say planners and committee members.
Committee member Brigette Gillespie said changing the area’s name to ArtWay is more inclusive for some of the entertainment venues planned in downtown Maryville where the artists’ portion of the Foothills Fall Festival is traditionally held. “We are no long just arts and crafts,” said Gillespie. “We have other events and demonstrations that will be going on during the festival.”
To go along with the new ArtWay name, there is also a new logo.
City of Maryville events coordinator Jane Groff said part of the change including the new name is to let people know about all the free activities in the area. “We have arts and crafts demonstrations like pottery where you actually create pottery, basket weaving and painting. It’s not just vendors, but the whole art experience,” she said.
Gillespie said there will be a clown troupe, face painters and music in front of Roy’s Record Shop coordinated by Edward Harper of the Maryville group Pistol Creek Catch of the Day. “We also have things going on in Founders Square and hands-on learning experiences for children,” she said.
Fine Arts Blount will be doing sidewalk art chalk drawings on the streets everyday during the festival, which is Oct. 16-18. “We will have antique automobile displays this year by the East Tennessee Region of the Antique Auto Club of America. We’ll hopefully have cars from each decade beginning in the early 1900s displayed on Broadway,” she said.
Groff said the main change to this year’s event is that tents will no longer be situated on Broadway Avenue downtown except for a few in front of Preservation Plaza. Tents will all be in the parking lot between CBBC and Preservation Plaza and on top of the parking garage across from Sullivan’s. “They will be just about identical (in types of vendors) and equally appealing with vendors and activities and art,” Groff said.
Groff said this move will benefit businesses because the tents won’t be in front of their doors anymore. “We hope that this is an opportunity for them to become more involved, inviting people into their businesses and becoming friends of the festival,” she said.
Groff said the committee began discussing the change in layout after last year’s event. “Part of a problem we’ve been dealing with the last three years are business owners who felt the tents were obstacles. We wanted to make adjustments for that, and to fill in the ‘holes’ the general public saw in the Arts and Crafts area,” she said. “With the old layout, it sometimes looked like someone didn’t show up, or they didn’t fill a booth space.”
Groff said that with the growth of the event, more vendors became interested in being on site. In years past, the city would have 300 to 400 more vendors apply than they have space for. The new layout with an ArtWay West and ArtWay East will give them room to expand without blocking businesses downtown with tents.
Some business owners complained that the city was showing preferential treatment to Preservation Plaza by putting tents in front of that building. “The preferential treatment idea is absurd,” Groff said. “I don’t understand it, unless it’s because we are putting tents in front of Preservation Plaza. The reason we put tents there is that they aren’t blocking anything there because there is no retail in the Plaza, so the tents aren’t blocking anything.”
Groff said the festival is also doing the Friends of the Festival program differently than in the past. The effort is a way to give downtown businesses the opportunity to be a part of the festival because most of the downtown businesses aren’t able to do corporate sponsorships, she said.
“We want to give them the opportunity to be involved by getting in as Friends of the Festival,” Groff said.
Friends of the Festival will pay a fee and receive perks such as a window cling identifying them as participants and have their business located on a map to be distributed to festival attendees.
The money will help pay for the decorations downtown. We’re adding signage and doing more decorating,” Groff said.
Friends of the Festival will also have their business located on the map that will be displayed showing businesses who are Friends of the Festival. “You also get a window cling to let people know you’re supporting ArtWay,” she said.
Another change this year will be that businesses downtown won’t be able to have tables in front of the doors as they have in the past.
“In the past you were able to get a permit and come out on the sidewalk within a small boundary so you could be more visible behind the tent,” Groff said. “Now we no longer have that obstacle (the tents), so we’re going back to the original policy where your business is your storefront, and you don’t come out on the sidewalk and do business.”
While some business people want to have a presence outside their store, Groff said other businesses in other parts of the city aren’t allowed to do that so the city has to be fair and consistent. “We feel like having this quality, juried arts and crafts show and having tens of thousands of people coming to it and walking by these business store fronts gives the businesses a visibility that is incredible,” she said. “We feel it is a good thing, and we want to be fair and consistent, and we also want to keep people coming.”
Gillespie said the ArtWay committee is encouraging businesses to decorate, put sandwich boards out and invite people to come into their businesses. “Make it a festive time for the businesses as well,” she said.
Groff praised Johnson Architects of Knoxville for donating their time to help the committee create a new look for the Arts and Crafts area. “They researched large festivals all over the country, and they used some of those ideas in some of things we’re going to incorporate this year. In years to come, we’ll add more,” she said.
Gillespie said Johnson Architects gleaned ideas from as far away as the Riverwalk in San Antonio and the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga. “We’ll have blade flags to identify each area, and the garden clubs will be doing decorations,” she said.
Groff said the garden clubs will have a friendly rivalry trying to “out decorate” each other. “There are five different garden clubs, and they’ll be responsible for decorating those areas,” she said.
Gillespie said the areas the garden clubs will decorate will provide great photo opportunities. “They do an awesome job of decorating for the festival,” she said.
Weighing in on ArtWay
Business people in downtown shared their thoughts on the new ArtWay layout and on how the move could either help or hurt their bottom lines.
Richard Clear, owner of Clear’s Silat and Street Kung Fu on East Broadway Avenue, saw both pros and cons with the new plan.
“They opened up the street, which is a good thing, but then they want businesses off the street, and that is not a good thing. I don’t know how they explain that as some kind of benefit,” he said. “They are going to have these antique cars parked in the middle of the street, and the street will still be closed off. They’ll have the whole street to walk on, yet the folks in charge can’t seem to allow us to use 3 feet of sidewalk (in front of the businesses). There has been no explanation for why,” he said.
Clear said it appears the city would rather the downtown businesses be gone for the weekend because they won’t let them have tables on the sidewalk in front of their businesses now that the tents are gone. “The only thing they’ve come up with is it’s against city ordinance to have things on the sidewalk. If we have a booth, they’ll stop by. When we’re just inside our storefronts, for the most part, people don’t come in there,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense and is not in the best interest of the business.”
Doug and Teresa Horn own Quality Financial Concepts at 115 W. Broadway Ave., and Preservation Plaza at 200 E. Broadway Ave. Doug Horn said he is excited about the change in layout but he does have his concerns. “We have got two large areas of vendors who are going to be downtown in ArtWay West and ArtWay East. What I wonder is how well will all our patrons connect between both. Will they make their way from one to the other and not bypass part of downtown going from the Children’s area to the music area,” he said.
Horn said when he learned that the committee planned to put tents in front of Preservation Plaza, it was news to him. “They haven’t talked to us or asked if they can put tents in front of our place at Preservation Plaza,” he said. “I’m sure that is something they were considering using for overflow vendors and that also will be a draw from one end to other. That may be part of connectivity of drawing people from one end to the other.”
Teresa Horn said putting ArtWay East in Founders Square in the parking lot between CBBC and Preservation Plaza gives patrons the opportunity to see improvements made to downtown. “I think expanding the arts and crafts downtown to that second municipal parking lot is a great way for people not normally downtown to see improvements,” she said. “Foothills Fall Festival does an awesome job of pulling people downtown who typically aren’t here on a daily basis.”
Mark Brackins, owner of Brackins’ Blues Club at 112 E. Broadway Ave., said he didn’t like the ArtWay concept. “I don’t like the idea they’re concentrating people in the parking lots and only allowing Preservation Plaza to have tents in front of them, for whatever reason, and no other merchants can do anything on the street,” he said. “We pay taxes everyday and the one day of the year we can make good money they refuse to let local businesses go on the street to make money. I think it’s preferential treatment they pick and choose where they put tents and not let us do our thing.”
Heath Claiborne, owner of the Capitol Theater at 127 W. Broadway Ave., said the individuals organizing the ArtWay are volunteers. “That’s important to keep in mind. They try to keep everyone happy,” he said.
Each year tents were located in front of his business. “They tried to give me a pathway for people to come into my theater, and they weren’t obligated to do that. I was grateful for that,” he said. “When I found out they weren’t going to put tents up, I was pleased.”
Claiborne said he was told antique cars were going to be situated up and down the street in lieu of the tents to draw people between the two art areas. “If there wasn’t going to be anything down through there, I would’ve rather they had tents,” he said. “If they add the cars, I think it’s a great idea.”