Fairhope's Arts and Crafts Festival was established in 1952. It originally lasted a week, and it was more of a tour to highlight the beauty of Fairhope for those across the Bay than the bustling bazaar it has become today. “Craftsmen,” as they were called, would set up their exhibits in the stores and shops downtown. They sold art and other items, but mostly the exhibits were just for viewing. 4,150 people came.
Fast forward to today, where the Arts and Crafts Festival, a 17-time resident of Sunshine Artist Magazine's “Top 200 Festivals in America”, attracts six-figure amounts of travelers, and takes place over the 3 busiest days of the year in Fairhope. The Festival has become one of the more deeply ingrained activities socially in the area; families plan for weeks or even months to go, save up money, fly in family from out of town, plan parties, etc. Much like jubilees, the Festival has become a landmark occasion for the Eastern Shore.
Economically, the impact of the Arts and Crafts Festival is enormous. In 2008, the Festival brought in approximately $9 million. It is safe to assume that the Festival's impact is much greater now. During the Festival, local restaurants essentially set personal records each year (I know this from firsthand account; working in a restaurant during Arts and Crafts is crazy). Sales for local bookstores, clothing stores, barbershops, and everything in between go through the roof. This is not even to mention the vendors for Arts and Crafts that are actually there to sell things.
This is one of the things that make living close to downtown Fairhope so wonderful. DOGWOOD is about a 10 minute walk from downtown Fairhope. By living so close, you can enjoy the festival without a thought of traffic or parking. This is truly the difference between living in the City of Fairhope and living in the heart of Fairhope.
The residents of the Eastern Shore are lucky to be so close to such a massive Festival. Watching how many people in the city are simply walking around is a sight to behold. It is definitely the most walking I do in a weekend all year. If not for the great food vendors at Arts and Crafts, it would likely be the healthiest weekend of the year as well. (But don't skip on fried alligator; trust me.)
By: Reid Gambino, Guest Blogger