FAIRHOPE – More than two years after the last celebration, artists, visitors and vendors lined downtown streets for the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival and Eastern Shore Art Center Outdoor Arts Show.
The events have been held each March in the past, but were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and postponed in 2021. The rescheduled festival and show started Friday and wrapped up Sunday. Mayor Sherry Sullivan, co-chair of the Arts and Crafts Festival, said Fairhope was ready for the festivities.
“We're so excited to be here this year,” Sullivan said at the start of the festival Friday. “I think y'all can probably feel the excitement in the air. The merchants, the citizens, the visitors, the artists and vendors are just so happy to be here and we're so thankful for being able to do this.”
Co-Chair Vicky Cook said organizers took precautions to restrict the spread of the coronavirus. The event was limited to fewer than 100 artists, less than half the number in past festivals, and booths were spread out to allow more distance between vendors.
“Everybody's been doing their job under our COVID rules,” Cook said. “So, we are just really excited about the weekend. We've got everything spaced out. Everybody's got plenty of space between them, so everybody feels comfortable. We've got water stations where people who feel like cleaning their hands can do it.”
She said artists are glad to be back at the festival.
“The artists are very excited to be here,” she said. “They've all said, 'we're just thankful that you're having this,' so we're real tickled about that. And next year, we're going to be back on the regular schedule, third weekend in March.”
Artist Linda Scott of Daphne said she and other participants were happy that the festival was going on.
“It's just wonderful. I'm so excited to be out here. I think everybody's excited to be out here. We have had some very difficult times and I feel like we're ready for good times after all this.”
The Arts and Crafts Festival was limited to Alabama artists in 2021. At the Outdoor Art Show, artists from around the region took part. At her booth on Section Street, pottery artist Susan Rodrigue of Prarieview, La. said she had missed taking part in the celebration.
“It's like coming home for me because I still have family here and I love it and Fairhope has always been very generous in their patronage. It's a beautiful city and everyone's very kind. There's nothing I don't like,” Rodrigue said.
She said participants were disappointed that the show was called off just before the event in 2020.
“It was a heartbreaker for everybody involved,” she said. “This is one of my favorite shows. A lot of people come from all over. I'm so delighted to be able to be back. I missed last year terribly. I was ready to come, and it was canceled the week before it was supposed to happen. It's the best show of the year.”
The Arts and Crafts Festival is also a chance for Eastern Shore art students to display their talent by creating murals for the event, Amy Plunkett, fine arts supervisor for the Baldwin County School System, said.
“Each of the high schools and middle schools on the Eastern Shore have done this for about 10 years now,” she said. “We get the theme in about January, and they have until the Wednesday before the festival and they do the murals. They're 3 feet by 4 feet. They paint them. They do multimedia.”
Past themes have included trees, Mardi Gras and doors of Baldwin County, she said.
“This year was Alabama, so one school concentrated on the Indian heritage of Alabama. One school concentrated on nature,” Plunkett said. “A couple did all the great things of Baldwin County. One did portraits of famous people from Baldwin County.”
Sullivan said volunteers and city employees also helped make the festival a success each year.
“I could not do this either without the city employees,” Sullivan said. “They were here early this morning. They are here every morning. They were here this morning bright and early making sure the flowers looked beautiful and everything was picked up and all the trash was picked up and they take just as much pride in this event as the volunteers who put it on. They're so excited to be able to do this for our visitors and our citizens.”