This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Labor Day Arts Festival in UA, a community event that combines artists, performances, and activities for the whole family. The first show was organized in 1966 and held in Miller Park, later moving to the Mallway. It eventually moved to the Municipal Services Center on Tremont Road and upon further expansion, moved from the Municipal Center to Northam Park in 1986.
To celebrate this 50th anniversary, we thought you might like to find out more about our annual tradition. So we asked Lynette Santoro-Au, Arts Manager for the city of Upper Arlington, to give us some insight into how this festival has grown over the years and its impact on our community.
How did the Arts Festival get started? The first show, held in 1966, was organized by local artist Don Dodrill and held in Miller Park. The popularity and success of the event has led to participation in recent years by some 200 artists, food vendors, and performers. Since 2002 we have been fortunate enough to have a coordinating committee who share their time, talents and treasure with us to help plan and run the festival each year. What many people may not know is that Festival is a juried event, meaning that the artist’s work is judged and prizes are awarded for top-rated work.
How does the UA community support this event? Our greatest asset in UA is our creative economy and the artists who sustain it. The community has embraced the Festival over the years by attending and supporting the artists that demonstrate, exhibit and perform on site as well as the variety of refreshment vendors who participate. Since 2002 we have been fortunate enough to have a coordinating committee who share their time, talents and treasure with us to help plan and run the festival each year. It is gratifying when we hear from patrons that they love Festival as much as we do and that they plan their holiday weekend around our event, making it a part of their traditions too.
What impact does the Festival have on our local economy? Participating artists support businesses, often staying overnight at local hotels. We know that the event has an economic impact on our community through visits to local restaurants and businesses. We estimate 20,000 people attend Festival each year, and all those people have some impact on the local economy. The Festival has gotten wonderful coverage over the years, including being listed as one of the top festivals in 2014. This recognition shines a light on the community as a whole and helps us fulfill our mission of fostering and encouraging the development of the arts in our community.
What are some changes you’ve seen over the years? Ten years ago we started offering an emerging artists program for anyone wanting to explore a career as an artist. We reserve four booths for these participants, and many of them have gone on to become established artists at our event and others. A few years ago, we brought in some food trucks and they’ve become a popular feature of the Festival. We’re always looking for more ways to engage the community and offer activities that help everyone appreciate art in their lives.