The Foothills Fall Festival Arts and Crafts area, now known as ArtWay, has come a long way in 10 years. As a matter of fact, that first year it was practically an afterthought.
ArtWay committee chair Carolyn Forster said construction on Broadway ten years ago originally kept anything from happening there. The Children’s Adventure Land area and Theater in the Bicentennial Greenbelt Park layout was done in advance.
“It was almost last minute when they said, ‘If anyone wants to set up arts and crafts, we’ve got a corner,’” Forster said.
Things have changed dramatically in 10 years. As more entertainment and a variety of art demonstrators, clown troupes and other venues were added, the area’s identity began to change.
This year, the committee responsible for the arts and crafts part of the popular Foothills Fall Festival changed the area’s name to reflect its diversity.
“We’re not just a juried arts and crafts show,” Forster said, adding quickly, “which, by the way, is one of the highest quality shows you’ll see in Southeastern United States. It’s not just a wonderful arts and crafts show. We have something for everybody,” she said.
Forster said all the vendors in the ArtWay area downtown are dedicated to some art form, whether it is the art with the juried show, music or people demonstrating art.
“Because we have so many more things going on, it became necessary to try to describe our area,” she said. “Talking about how Last Friday Artwalk has been so popular, we played on that theme. One of our committee members came up with ArtWay, which really identifies what we’re doing. I’m excited about ArtWay.”
One aspect of the Foothills Fall Festival that has grown each year has been the musical entertainment organized by Edward Harper and situated in front of Roy’s Record Shop downtown.
“We’re very fortunate Roy Garrett has been so generous in allowing us to use his space. It has been ideal because of the association with music and history in that building,” Forster said. “The neat thing we discovered is the alcove in front of his store makes for perfect acoustic music. We tried two or three other locations in parking lots or out in the open, but the front of Roy’s Record Shop has an acoustic tone, you hear it well, plus the back drop is great. It makes for a little mini-theater, and it has become a mini-festival in and of itself.”
Forster said the musical line up Harper gets continues to be top of the line for any kind of bluegrass acoustical music found anywhere in the area.
“The venue this year has been broadened, so that it’s not just bluegrass. We have wonderful performers who perform at Music Row and Rocky Branch, and we also have the Maryville High Strings, Sister of the Silver Sage and Pistol Creek Catch of the Day,” she said. “We’ve got the whole gamut, three full days, opening to close. Edward Harper has worked for months to get all this lined up, and it’s going to be exciting.”
Forster said other aspects of ArtWay will be just as fun for the whole family. There will be face painting for children in Founders Square, located between CBBC and Preservation Plaza. Craft demonstrators will be on hand all three days of the festival, and they will provide free hands-on instruction. “You can make something yourself, whether it’s pottery, cornshuck dolls, baskets or weaving. We’ve got all the demonstrators doing that to provide hands-on activities in Founders Square,” she said.
The clown troupe Team Kirkwood will perform on the steps at Jack Bowman’s dental office in the former U.S. Post Office. The steps at the office create a theater atmosphere, and the clowns will perform throughout the weekend, Forster said.
Another new venue for ArtWay will be Rembrandt on the Street, sponsored by Fine Arts Blount. The event gives everyone the opportunity to be an artist.
“It’s going to be on North Court Street, which will be blocked off to traffic. FAB will put grids on the road. Every day, the mural changes, depending on what the artists decide,” she said. “You get down and make your own art in the grid and that evolves everyday into a different mural. They wash the street off at night, and everybody does it again the next day. FAB is doing that whole activity for us. It is going to be a fun thing for people to do.”
Forster said the new ArtWay layout puts vendors in three distinct areas - in the parking deck across from Sullivan’s (ArtWay West), in Founder’s Plaza (ArtWay East) and in front of Preservation Plaza. “We totally revamped the downtown. It took them off the main street and out from in front of businesses. That has opened up our streets for more decorations, for pedestrians and for our businesses to be able to advertise and invite people into their businesses,” she said.
Downtown itself will be decorated more than ever before. Local Garden Clubs are again establishing several ‘photo-ops,’ where pictures can be made in various fall settings, and pumpkins and flowers will fill the ArtWay venue. Plans are underway to provide an opportunity for those decorations to be sold to the public on Monday morning.
Banners along the ‘portals’ or side streets leading to Broadway will direct everyone to ArtWay. The photo-op centerpiece that was designed by Clay Crowder specifically for the Foothills Fall Festival has been replicated, and there will now be three signposts - the one at the intersection of Cusick Street and Broadway and one at each end of ArtWay.
Revamping the area also gave ArtWay planners the opportunity to add a display of antique cars and tractors to the venue. On Friday and Saturday of the festival, vehicles with the Antique Automobile Association of America will be displayed on Broadway. On Sunday, the Foothills Antique Tractor Club will bring tractors to Broadway for people to see.
Everything associated with ArtWay -- the arts, crafts, cars, clown troupes and music, remains a free, no-ticket needed event, just as it has always been.
“Eleven years ago when we were planning the festival, flying by the seat of our pants, downtown was under construction,” Forster said. “The streets were being reworked so traffic couldn’t even go on Broadway. There was nothing on Broadway the first year of the festival,” Forster remembers.
Forster said it wasn’t until the second year that planners were able incorporate downtown as an arts and crafts area. “The streets were finished, and the awnings removed from buildings, so we were able to use downtown. That was the area that was allocated to arts and crafts. We just almost did the same thing as the first year, telling folks to bring a tent, set it up, and we’ll see what happens,” she said. “The unfortunate thing about that year was the terrible weather. We had a major windstorm that came though on Saturday night, and, in the middle of the night, a downburst hit, and we had a huge mess the next morning. It toppled tents and caused all kinds of debris. It was really sad to see that happen.”
The next year was when Forster was assigned to chair the committee planning the event and organizers revamped it. “We decided that to be totally safe with tents, we would provide all the tents. A lot of vendors had their small pop-up kind of tents, and they didn’t provide protection when the wind came,” she said.
This has worked well and provided a clean look because everything was uniform. By about the fifth year, another changed occurred, this time in how vendors were chosen. Organizers began making it a juried event.
“That was when we decided it was time to look at quality and to avoid duplication so we wouldn’t have all of the vendors selling one thing. We really needed to go to that next level,” she said. “Every year it has continued to become a very strong, quality show.”
Forster said the planners are proud of how the ArtWay portion of the Foothills Fall Festival has grown and evolved over the years.
“When I look back at the changes, it was fun. We had a lot of fun, and it was nice to see. We have so many people who work on this festival all year long,” she said. “This isn’t something we do six weeks before the festival. This is a year-long production. I think the work has paid off.”
Forster said there will be three “Saturday only” events in this year’s ArtWay area.
• The Blount County Historic Trust will provide costumed guided tours throughout downtown at 2, 3 and 4 p.m.
• The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have a display for their 75th anniversary featuring animal skins and information about the park.
• Ijams Nature Center will bring a display including live animals to promote living green in harmony with nature.
Following is a line-up of the music to be heard in front of Roy’s Record Shop at ArtWay. All ArtWay events are free and need no tickets.
Friday, Oct. 16
• 12:30 p.m.: Rhythm Pickups, Home-style country and gospel
• 2 p.m.: Steel String Swingers, Western Swing and early style country
• 3 p.m.: Gritte Fritter with John Dupree, Musique Americana
• 5 p.m.: Will Tate & Six Mile Express, Bluegrass from the next generation
• 6 p.m.: Jackie Wilburn, a Jerry Reed-style performer
Saturday, Oct. 17
• 10:15 a.m.: Songwriters, including Jim Myers, Lilly Sutton and Bill Cabage, perform, Bluebird Cafe style
• 12 p.m.: Shamrock Road, Irish Pub music and songs
• 1 p.m.: Barry Roseman Trio, Jazz
• 3 p.m.: Tri County, Bluegrass
• 4:30 p.m.: Ian Feeback and Dave Mills, acoustic Blues
• 6 p.m.: The Mediocre Band, Garage rock ‘n’ roll from ‘70s
Sunday, Oct. 18
• 12:15 p.m.: Maryville High Strings, classical, pop and traditional music by area youth
• 1:45 p.m.: Sisters of the Silver Sage, Western music
• 3:15 p.m.: Pistol Creek Catch of the Day, Acousto-delectric-Americana-grass-rockswing-a-billy
• 4:45 p.m.: Open mic until close at 6 p.m.