The 44th annual Delaware Arts Festival will take place May 20-21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in downtown Delaware. Admission and parking are free.
While it may be the local Arts Festival, exhibitors attend from all over America. Besides Ohio, 13 other states will be represented: California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia & Wisconsin.
“There is always new exhibitors – all spaces are filled, with about 60 percent returning exhibitors and 40 percent new first-time exhibitors,” said Judy Burdette, a volunteer for the festival. “The mix is really good — a full complement of ceramics and glass people, as well as artists using every medium imaginable, plus photography.”
The festival’s website said independent judges award exhibitors “based on craftsmanship, originality, creativity and display.”
“We are probably one of the few shows that even if the person won Best of Show last year, we make them jury back in,” Burdette said. “That’s the way it’s always been done, and consequently, we pick up new talent from all over the United States. If anything, the applicants are more than last year.”
While the 10,000 people who attend the festival annually get to see what the 160 or so juried exhibitors are showing and selling, some may not know the purpose of the festival, which “is to promote artistic endeavors in the visual arts” among the county’s schools. Three scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors who plan to study art in college.
“There’s a lot of people who know the festival exists, but they don’t have a clue why,” said Connie Hoffman, a volunteer and trustee who has been involved with the festival on and off since its inception.
“The Delaware Arts Festival was set up to encourage visual arts in Delaware County and promote development of the visual arts,” Hoffman said. “It was set up so that we would give the money that is raised goes back to scholarships and all the art teachers in Delaware County to use for supplies. We have a grant program where we give money out to the schools. I think we replaced a kiln for Hayes one year.”
“We are offering a total of $20,000 this year,” said Mary Morrison, scholarship committee chair.
The festival also gives grant awards and stipends to Delaware County art teachers.
There’s another misconception about the festival, Hoffman said.
“A lot of people think the city puts it on, but they don’t,” she said. “They support us, but they don’t put it on.”
She explained that the festival used to be held for one day at Ohio Wesleyan University on Mother’s Day weekend, but it was moved to the downtown and is now held over two days on the third weekend of May.
Delaware has the earliest arts festival in Ohio, she said. In the past, there have been chilly, rainy and windy events, resulting in tents that have blown away and damaged merchandise. If there is a spring shower, Hoffman said, visitors often duck into a downtown business or restaurant until the storm blows over.
“Since we moved it from a one-day to a two-day (event), we still have one day to recoup and regroup,” Hoffman said. “This is a really good festival for most of the artists, and the fact that it’s a two-day makes it much more worthwhile for them to attend.”
Hoffman noted that city officials have described the Arts Festival as one of Delaware’s premiere events.
“It’s rewarding to see an event like this (grow), because it’s so good for the community and it makes Delaware a better place to live,” Hoffman said. “We believe the local businesses benefit from it, and it brings in so many dollars to the downtown area.”
Also new this year, “Entertainment is moving to the Community Corner (southwest corner of William and Sandusky streets) with a great,” Burdette said. “Schmidt’s Sausage House from German Village will be in the food court this year offering their famous Bahama Mamas’ and huge cream puffs.”
There will also be some booths for corporate sponsors, like The Gazette and local nonprofit organizations. In addition to the artists, there will be a student art show nearby at the main branch of the Delaware County Library.
The only concern each year for the Arts Festival is rain.
“It’s going to be a really nice show,” Burdette said. “We’re going to have to do a dance so the weather’s good. That’s the only element that keeps the show from being wonderful every year.
“Our event is always held the weekend after Mother’s Day (which is also the OWU Alumni Weekend),” Burdette said. “This year that falls on May 20 and 21. In 2018, our 45th year event will be May 19 and 20.”
Some downtown streets are typically closed during the Arts Festival — Sandusky Street, from William Street to Central Avenue; and Winter Street, from Franklin Street to the East Winter Street exit from the city parking lot. The closings will be in effect from 5:30 a.m. Saturday to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit www.delawareartsfestival.org/
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.