Organizers see Arts & Vine as more than a festival
When the Sanford Pottery Festival ended its successful 11-year run as the city’s largest festival and one of its top spring tourist draws, many in the community looked at the the weekend before Mother’s Day as a glaring hole that needed to be filled and filled immediately.
Ideas swirled. Men and women who didn’t want to see the city’s signature spring festival die completely began meeting. Committees were formed.
And before long, Sanford had a new festival — one that looked to build on the success of “pottery” and add other elements. In November, the group of local business leaders, nonprofit groups, artists, elected officials and other community volunteers unveiled the Sanford Arts & Vine Festival, scheduled for May 3-5 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
“People all over the state and some out of state have become familiar with our arts event on the first weekend in May,” said Bob Joyce, president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber, as the representative of the business community, wanted to see that reputation continue to grow.”
Organizers say Arts & Vine will offer the same quality potters as its predecessor while adding artists who work with paints, metals, woods and other mediums to produce a more diverse event.
“There are a number of really talented and creative artist in the area — painters, metalsmiths, glass workers, as well as some of the country’s best potters,” said Tom Snell, part of the festival’s executive committee. “We have a thriving artisan community in North Carolina, as well as a growing wine industry and want to showcase all that talent.”
Wine was a welcomed addition to the Pottery Festival beginning in 2009 when David Nestor, now a member of the Arts & Vine executive committee, gathered North Carolina wineries under a tent to offer samples of their products to win connoisseurs. The tent has grown to offer a dozen vintners in 2013 and will add two North Carolina breweries as well — sticking with the theme of offering festival-goers more diversity.
“We’ll have live musicians under the tent, and the festival will feature some of the best food in our area,” Nestor said. “Those who come ... they’ll have a great time.”
MUSIC AND MORE
When the discussion turned to attracting more people from in and around Lee County during the first months of organizing, music moved quickly to the top of the “must-add” list. Serving as a “kick-off celebration” to the weekend’s festivities, Arts & Vine will host an outdoor concert on the Civic Center grounds featuring artists from North Carolina.
The headliner will be Shannon Whitworth, former member of the lauded North Carolina ensemble The Biscuit Burners who has gone on to a successful solo career. Fresh off the release of her new album, “High Tide,” Whitworth’ swoon-inducing style has won over fans across the nation. Sanford is a midway stop on her current spring-summer tour.
Opening for Whitworth will be Sanford’s own Huckleberry Blue and Raleigh bands Scarlet and Crush — three bands with followings in and around the Triangle area.
“We won’t view Arts & Vine as a success unless the community gets on board with what we’re trying to do,” said Billy Liggett, executive committee member. “Not everybody is into pottery or buying art, but I know very few people who don’t enjoy good music. Shannon’s a class-act and a great talent, and if you’ve seen Huckleberry Blue perform in our area, you know they’ll bring excitement. We think this concert is a great way to get the festival off on the right foot.”
Solo artists will also perform much of the day on Saturday and Sunday under the wine tent, and the festival will include several activities and events to help keep people entertained. Chief among the events will be an appearance by Scott Mason of WRAL’s “Tarheel Traveler” fame.
Mason will speak in the Civic Center auditorium from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 4, telling stories primarily about his travels in Sanford and the surrounding area.
Sanford Arts & Vine is a true community event, according to Jennifer St. Clair, vice president of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and member of the executive committee for the festival.
It’s not just a festival housed in Sanford, she said, but a true grassroots effort to build a brand as a community.
“From the local organizations serving as committee members to Lee County folks stepping up to volunteer to our generous local businesses who are sponsoring and pitching in ... we need a strong community effort to make this a success,” St. Clair said. “An event of this magnitude is no small task, and we are so incredibly grateful to our sponsors and volunteers for their support. I would encourage everyone to look at the list of sponsors on our website (www.sanfordartsandvine.com) and thank them … preferably by giving them some business.”
Jamie Kelly — executive committee member and CFO and co-founder of Mottis, which created much of the marketing materials and the website for the festival — said the community response has impressed him so far.
“It’s amazing to see our community and civic organizations rally with such broad support behind this great event,” Kelly said. “It makes you proud of our hometown.”