“We moved to Fairhope in 1992. My husband worked for WALA. They became a sponsor of Fairhope Arts and Crafts and he became a part of it. He came home after a meeting and told me he had volunteered me for registration. I had a good time. Two or three months later, I was asked to chair registration and I have been involved ever since. My husband and I chaired it for three years. To this day, registration and that first Thursday night is still my favorite part. Artists become friends and the festival volunteers have become my family. Most of the art in my house is a poster or something I bought at Arts and Crafts.
The last week before Arts and Crafts and the week after, the festival is all you think about. You worry about the weather. Volunteers are up at 2 a.m. in the wind and the rain making sure the tents are secure or helping clean up when the wind blows something down. One artist was Mr. Turner who carved the cigar store Indians. He also carved sweet potatoes and let them dry into faces. One year it was pouring down on Thursday. Mr. Turner was patiently waiting for his spot. Sunday afternoon before he left, he came over and left us a sweet potato face on a string. He said if the chair wore it we will never have rain again. As long as that was around, we never had rain again. He passed away and we miss him every year. Fran, the chair for many years, would look for rainbows. The hard part is losing the artists and volunteers who have passed away.
It broke our hearts to cancel the festival this year. The final decision was made the week before. The artists have a circuit and they were headed this way. We didn’t want them coming here and spending money on food and hotels, then cancel it a few days later. We gave them back their money for entry fees. Canceling it was a hard decision because it impacts local businesses and restaurants. We got so many phone calls from the public and people who come every year begging us not to cancel. But artists and visitors.were traveling from all over the country and we had to be cautious.
It is July and time to start planning again. We will see what happens. We don’t know how many artists will make it through this. Will they be able to go on the road next year. People start submitting applications and the jury process begins. It is online now, and the jurors are across the country. We used to have local judges and they sat in a room and looked at pictures on a slide projector and the local and gave scores. That took a long time. Four hundred to 600 people apply and we have space for about 220. The festival takes nine months to play and every person on this committee loves this festival and gives hours and hours of work. The big week starts with putting down duct tape to mark the booths and ends with pulling that duct tape up.
Four years ago Arts and Crafts broke away from the chamber. of commerce. We give the money back to the art community for student scholarships and to local bands and the Eastern Shore Art Center. My husband and I volunteer at the Fairhope Welcome Center and we love telling visitors about Arts and Crafts. You can’t imagine the calls we get and the interest people have in it. I hope it all comes back next year.”