It Takes A Village
Eastwood Village Council Hosts Inaugural Arts & Crafts Fair
On Sept. 29 the Eastwood Village Council sponsored its Inaugural Arts & Crafts Fair and by all measures, it was a huge success.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our council and our volunteers,” says Council Chair Dennis Benzel. “This was a great day for our community.”
The council had been considering such an event for more than a year. The first order of business was to decide on a venue. It needed to be large enough to accommodate the anticipated number of vendors and preferably visible from Shelbyville Road. The large parking lot of the Eastwood Christian Church was determined to be perfect. The request was presented to Pastor Johnny Marion and he graciously accepted.
“I’m confident this location helped with the huge attendance we enjoyed that day,” says council member Bob Federico.
When the council started planning how to recruit vendors, the decision was made that it was more important for the event to be successful than profitable. For the first few months registration was offered at no cost in order to get some momentum going. And even after that, the charge was only $15 per spot. Ann Neely, chair of the event, visited other art shows and shared with people her vision.
“The applications started flowing in and before we knew it we had 36,” Neely says.
Fortune shined on the effort when Kristen McNair joined the Council this past year. McNair has been a volunteer for the St. James Art Fair for 14 years and now serves as the volunteer coordinator. She brought tons of expertise to the table and was a key to the Fair’s success.
Volunteers were critical to the day and came from many directions. Neighbors, family, friends and several students from the Whitney Young Job Corps.
“It would have been impossible to pull this off without the help from so many,” Neely says.
The hearty volunteers arrived at 6:00 in the morning to help with booth set up and were still there at 6:00 that evening cleaning up the site. And they helped with everything in between.
Another key to success was having a good parking plan and council member John Darling was tasked with that responsibility. That job got more difficult after several days of torrential rains leading up to the event. He and his crew met the day before and meticulously laid out a plan that turned out to be flawless.
Part of that team was Yorke Hannah, a resident of Arborgate, who had answered the call for volunteers from the community and recruited some of his neighbors to join him.
“The fair organizers were concerned the parking areas would be too wet to handle the anticipated number of vehicles,” Hannah says. “It was such a beautiful day that even though a shuttle service was provided, many people chose to make the short walk to the event.”
When the attendees entered the event site of more than 50 vendors they were met with several choices — hang a left toward the very successful Eastwood Village Farmers’ Market where they could pick up fresh local produce and meats, artisan bread and cheeses or even fresh cut flowers, or turn right and enter the food court area where they were presented with the difficulty of choosing between The Block Gourmet Deli and three food trucks, All Thai’d Up, Bourbon Bent BBQ or the Copper Cantina. While they sat in the dining area enjoying the local fare, they got to listen to the beautiful sounds of Nick Peay, Gabe Close and Phil Rowley.
The Arts & Crafts portion of the fair did not disappoint, either. Entering this area of the fair presented attendees with an eclectic range of arts and crafts including jewelry, paintings, greeting cards, beautiful clothing items, unique photography and more. The vendors were a mix of art fair pros and first-timers and all seemed to enjoy the camaraderie. There were many treasures to be found and very few visitors left empty-handed.
One pleased attendee was Sandi Uligian.
“How refreshing to meet and mingle with local artists and craftspeople from our area,” Uligian says. “The variety of items and the creativity of the goods were amazing. I’m so glad I came.”
As the event wound down, Benzel was able to consider the meaning of the day.
“One of the many driving forces for the Eastwood Village Council is building community and that was truly the inspiration behind this event”, he says. “I believe we accomplished something special here today.”