This past May, Crozet Park hosted its 37th annual Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival. The traditional rains came several days before and many of us wondered if this year’s event would be a muddy mess. We weren’t disappointed; it was, yet attendance was at an all-time high and many of the artists I spoke with had their best show ever.
For those of you familiar with the Festival, you know the significance of this event for our Park. It serves as the primary fundraiser allowing us to keep paint on fences, make capital investments for the pool and grounds and add new amenities like the just completed .85-mile perimeter trail. Every amenity we add to the Park, whether pavilion, dog park or trail, carries with it maintenance costs.
As our Park grows, the Festival takes on increasing importance. However, unless you’ve volunteered at the Festival, you may not know the incredible amount of effort that goes into this twice-yearly event. The phrase, “it takes a village,” comes to mind. In our case, it takes many kind and energetic people in and around Crozet to make this event the success it is year after year. With that in mind, let me share how this event unfolds over several days and thank so many of you who came out to help.
Several weeks prior to the festival, Chuck Kennedy and team installed a new electrical panel in the lower parking lot by the ball fields. With Buddy Snead of Snead’s Backhoe and Septic Services digging the trench and Shannon Spradlin marking the water lines, erecting this new panel helped us establish a new “food court,” a concept we tested out for the first time at this year’s Festival. Attendees loved it and so to did the food vendors who were happy to avoid the muddy Festival grounds. Consolidating all the food vendors in one area avoids the mud and puts the Festival in better alignment with Health Department recommendations. Thank you Chuck and Kennedy Electric for making this happen!
The week leading into the festival weekend is as busy as they come. Early that week, FDS Tents swooped in and set-up the tents, five in all, and Mike Maupin and team came in soon after to hook-up all the related electrical. Maupin Electric has been doing this set-up for the Festival too many years to count. Thank you, Mike.
This same week, our partners and colleagues at Albemarle County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) got all the open green spaces ready for several thousands cars and people. Each year ACPR prepares Park grounds for the Festival, they lend two gators to the Park and come in after the Festival to get these same open areas back in shape. Thank you to Matt Smith, Jim Barbour and team for your help pre- and post-festival and throughout the year.
A little known fact: Crozet Park boasts some of the heaviest, high quality picnic tables in all the land and it is no small feat to move them around. Thank you to the Lions Club for moving picnic tables from the covered pavilions, across the parking lot, up the hill and into the entertainment tent.
By Friday of the festival weekend, things really begin heating up as artists arrive and set-up ratchets up a notch. Previous Park board member and Parkside neighbor Kelly Strickland arrives mid-morning and works steadily throughout the day to measure and mark all the lines for parking cars and trucks coming in and out from Friday morning to Sunday evening. Kelly has been doing this set-up for many years, and each year we try to throw something new into the mix just to keep him on his toes. Last fall it was the parking project and this year, the perimeter trail. No matter how hard we try, Kelly always seems to find every nook and cranny to park a car. Thank you, Kelly.
Also on Friday around about noon, the Field School bus pulls into Crozet Park. I sigh with relief as 20 to 30 kids pour off the bus ready to help with set-up and assisting artists to move their wares from cars to booth spaces. The Field School provides this assistance each year under the direction of Todd Barnett. Thank you, Todd and students.
Because the festival just wouldn’t have the same je ne sais quoi without the rain and associated mud, straw—many, many bales of straw—are a regular feature of the festival. However this year, there was a run on straw and our usual suppliers were tapped out. By Friday afternoon we were a bit panicked and calling all over town to locate straw bales. Finally, thanks to Southern States in Charlottesville, 30 bales of straw were delivered; every last one of them used by Saturday morning. Of course straw doesn’t spread itself, so thank you to David Boisvert who arrived early Saturday morning before he had to go to work and carried and spread every single bale (while wife Bevin and dog-about-town Daisy Mae slept-in!).
Although a slow start to the day on Saturday, by 11 a.m. the festival had kicked into high gear. Cars were streaming in, crowds were queuing to buy tickets and the grounds were filling up.
Thank you to Brandon Black and team from Lenoir Enterprises LLC for helping park several thousand cars throughout the weekend, including pulling a few out of the mud! Thank you, also, to all the surrounding neighborhoods who saw their fair share of cars parking on the streets in and around the park. Although we don’t often exceed the park’s parking for these festivals, when we do, we realize traffic can be challenging. Hopefully the continued investment and associated growth of our community park, is a fair trade-off for the few days each year when overflow traffic spills into the streets.
Before the festival, during and after, you will find past and current Park board members, the Crozet Trails Crew, Crozet YMCA, and ACPR helping with some part of the Festival operations. Without you the grass would be too high, wine and beer sales would lag (thus causing a riot in the field) and the festival would not be the success it is. Thanks to all of you who continue to devote time and energy to help us put on the best festival possible, showing everyone why Crozet is the place to be.
Last but certainly not least, thanks to Festival Director Amanda Wright Polson. Amanda has been at the helm almost three years and just completed her fifth Arts & Crafts Festival. As you might imagine, the Festival is a focused effort requiring someone who is skilled at planning, operations, marketing, fundraising, negotiating, graphic design, etc., etc. Amanda encompasses all of these skills and more. Perhaps more importantly, though, she has the grace, humor and patience required to wrangle 120 artists, 15 food vendors, 100-plus volunteers, 12 park board members, sponsors and media all requiring careful orchestration in the span of 72 hours. Which, by the way, doesn’t include the other 362 days a year that Amanda is wrapping up one festival and preparing for the next. Amanda makes all of this look easy even when it’s not. Thanks also to Amanda’s family, who give their support and help without fail.
Whether you’re a festival volunteer, sponsor, exhibitor, artist, vendor or attendee, the event succeeds because of your participation. On behalf of the board, thank you for participating, and we look forward to seeing you in October.
Claudius Crozet Park