Remembrances of Artsfests past

Published 1:34 pm Friday, October 9, 2009

Alas, Riverside Artsfest is no more.

According to Lynda Todaro, this annual event has been canceled due to declining interest and the inability to have others volunteer to assume its chairmanship.

Simply, no one has stepped forward to take on the task. Without luck, Lynda has attempted to interest several organizations to take up the leadership, but none has accepted.

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It’s been very difficult these past few years to get the necessary volunteers and committee workers to participate. Those of us who have been involved with Artsfest for many years, have wished that younger people or others would come forward to take our place to carry the banner.

But recently, this has been lacking.

To organize such an event takes many talented hands, each with an assigned specific duty in order to have a successful show. Each annual event is nearly a year in the planning.

Artsfest was one of the first events Faye and I were involved in when we came to Bainbridge in 1991. I served as publicity chairman for I forget how many years. But each year was special, with artists representing various featured states, live entertainers, street events, brown bag lunches in Willis Park and of course the local, student and regional juried art shows in the Firehouse Gallery.

I remember the first brown bag lunch performance in Willis Park in 1992 Artsfest when the park was filled with people. Folks on benches, their own beach chairs, on blankets on the lawn, and companies and businesses setting up lunch tables for their employees to enjoy an hour of good times.

The last few years, I noticed a dwindling of the brown-bag audience, half or less in attendance.

The first few years, the Saturday night headliners drew big crowds, but as the years passed, it became more and more difficult to book big-name entertainers due to their increasing fees, which in many cases took more than half the Artsfest budget.

Over the years, many folks were involved with Artsfest. You can probably pick your favorite state that was featured that year.

Mine was Massachusetts. Sam Griffin had invited the captain of the USS Constitution to be a special guest sponsored by The Post-Searchlight, and the captain accepted. I can’t remember his name, something like Ameroux, but he was an instant hit. Upon his arrival, Sam was off on a prolonged business trip, so it fell upon me to get the captain settled, round up some programs for him, so when he arrived dressed in his Navy whites, carrying his carousel of slides of the ship, Old Ironsides, he had an audience in which to show them.

He was a hit at the Chamber monthly breakfast, at the Rotary Club and at both the middle schools. He was a hit at a Post-Searchlight-sponsored reception on the back deck of the Chamber, and we understand that he was a hit at some very boisterous private parties after the sun had gone down.

On his final day here, he almost missed his plane on return to Boston, because as he sat in the park at one of the brown bag lunches, a host of people came up to thank him and to chat for being with us these few days. As the line grew, I kept reminding him, “Captain, your plane leaves at two, and it’s an hour’s drive to the airport, you have to check out of the Charter House and you have to turn in your rental.”

He kept smiling and chatting with the local folks, and somehow finally broke away. I never knew if he made it to his plane and back to Boston on time.

I guess he did, because many people received a personal note from him, including an invitation for Faye and I to come to Boston on the Fourth of July to participate in the annual USS Constitution sail in the Boston Harbor. Sadly, we couldn’t make it.

To Sam and all of those who first organized Riverside Artsfest, and to all of those chairman and sub-committee chairman over the years who toiled to make each event historic, to Lynda Todaro who carried on these past few years, we all owe them a huge thank you and enduring debt of gratitude for a job well done.

Riverside Artsfest is now history. May it long endure in our memories. Nothing now or in the future can take its place.

It was a grand show.