Keep Riverside Artsfest alive

Published 4:12 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

The first thing about Riverside Artsfest is the education topics written by local folks called upon to research and tell us about this year’s chosen state.

As you may know, it’s Rhode Island, this year, the first article written by Pam Immendorf, giving us a thorough insight about our smallest state.

My task is to tell you about some of the authors of Rhode Island. When Lynda Todaro gave me the assignment, I couldn’t think of a single author. So what do you do? You go to the Internet and look up “Rhode Island authors” and you get a list of authors 45 pages long, about 10 or 11 names per page.

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It shall not be my obligation to go into great depth on each and every one on the list. But in subsequent columns, I’ll talk about a few of them.

To begin, let’s talk about Riverside Artsfest in general. When Faye and I first came to Bainbridge in 1992 or thereabouts, Riverside Artsfest was only a few years old. I think the state at the time was Pennsylvania. We got into it, and thoroughly enjoyed all the events. It was a very special community event with big turnouts of folks.

As the years have passed, Riverside Artsfest naturally has grown and changed as new people became involved, and inserted new ideas and new ways to present the material.

It still is basically the same show, but then again it’s not the same show.

Nor should it be.

It takes a great deal of money and a lot of volunteers to organize an event the size of Artsfest. Budgets were $50,000 more or less, at first, all raised from the community. Big name talent sparked the Saturday night’s event, which consumed nearly half the budget. With the advent of Rivertown Days, it became more difficult to raise funds, as local folks tried to support both events. Costs for big time entertainment, for example, loomed out of sight.

Since coming to Bainbridge, I have been involved nearly every year with Riverside Artsfest, so I can talk a little bit about it in retrospect.

The original committee wanted this event to be different than most promotional events sponsored by communities. This was not going to be “Gnat Days,” for example with beauty queens, parades and flea market vendors.

The thrust was on community education, that the event would promote understanding of our neighboring states, whether they be from South Carolina, Oregon or Rhode Island.

Various entertainment programs and art shows during the four days still remain for enrichment, enjoyment and downright fun.

I think what I have witnessed most during the last few years is a dwindling interest in Riverside Artsfest. Attendance and participation seem smaller even though the quality of the programs has not diminished. The brown bag lunches in Willis Park used to be jammed with people, companies and businesses setting up tables for lunch, folks on the lawn or in lawn chairs, but lots of folks.

The boat basin on Saturday mornings was the place to find some high quality hand-made items from quality crafts people. The setting was delightful. But the attendance again was marginal.

We need to keep this event alive. Even though it may not be attractive to all interests of our community, this is an event that needs all our support. You’ll be hearing a lot about Rhode Island in the next few weeks. Take time to get acquainted with this delightful state. Make time to participate.

In the meantime, I’m going to start on my Rhode Island author’s list. First name on the list is Joe Anne Adler, who wrote a non fiction book, STRESS: Just Chill Out.

I don’t think her book made the best seller’s list, but I am sure somewhere down through these 45 pages of authors I can find some who did.