By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer
The ninth annual Fall Arts in the Park festival flooded downtown Blue Ridge Oct. 12 and 13 with thousands coming to see the 140 vendors who support the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association.
Executive Director Nichole Potzauf said this year’s Fall Festival had record-setting attendance with preliminary numbers estimated close to 8,700 guests, vendors and volunteers.
Staff members organizing and helping Arts in the Park bring success and economic growth to the area, along with Potzauf, include Assistant Director Caroline Mann, Cecilia Acevedo, festivals and community outreach coordinator, Marketing Coordinator Jennifer Danner and dozens of volunteers.
“We are grateful to all our volunteers who donated their time, and the artists who showcased their caliber of art and fine crafts to create a successful Fall Arts in the Park,” Potzauf said.
Local groups Potzauf said who helped with key needs over the weekend included Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack 460, Girls Scouts and Fannin County High School art teams. She said they support partnerships with the festival event annually making it an event visitors return to and tell their friends and family about.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) said in a report on outdoor arts festivals in the United States that they provide a commitment to presenting excellent and diverse art creating a gateway to opening individuals eyes to the variety of art forms.
“The arts aren’t simply what is seen via the art form itself, but there is so much more contributions that many don’t see,” Potzauf said. From art show platforms, economic development, emotional and therapeutic release, human connectivity, small business development and a sense of place and confidence can evolve.
Policies and procedures are put in place at outdoor festivals to ensure audiences have access to high quality and diverse art experiences so the masses see the multiple genres and a variety of aesthetic experiences.
The NEA also found that festivals integrate and engage its host communities. “The majority of festivals occur in small and mid-sized communities and have taken place in the same community for more than a decade,” said the NEA.
Oftentimes festivals like the fall and spring Arts in the Park give the public an easy and low-cost access to the arts while providing local and grassroots artists connections to the community.
The NEA said, “Festivals depend on funds and services from local government and businesses and are run by armies of volunteers.”
“Our festivals are just a small portion of the power of the arts and hopefully we allow for all those “unseen” avenues of the arts to intersect not only for our artist vendors but out guests as well,” Potzauf said.
The 44th annual Spring Arts in the Park will be held Saturday, May 23-24, 2020.
For more information about BRMAA, call 706-632-2144 or visit www.blueridgearts.net.