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Arts and Entertainment

ArtsFest On Historic Walnut Street Returns--With A Few Differences

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(Poster design courtesy ArtsFest on Historic Walnut Street)
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Springfield Regional Arts Council had to cancel what would have been the 40th anniversary ArtsFest on Historic Walnut Street last year, due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.  So the 40th ArtsFest will take place this year, Saturday and Sunday May 1st and 2nd, in the Walnut Street Historic District, presented by Great Southern Bank.  Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Forrester joined us on “Arts News” to talk about it.                                                                                              

“We’re so excited to be bringing it back after a year hiatus,” she said.  “We hit ‘pause’ last year to get everyone safely through the pandemic, so we’re so delighted to be bringing it back.”

But it will look different this year, she added. “COVID is still here, and we want to make sure that all of our patrons, artists, staff and volunteers are very safe. So we are very closely following all of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department guidelines. For larger events like this—even outdoors—we are limited to between 2000 and 2500 people per two-hour (period).” In the past, a $5 entrance fee was good for the entire ArtsFest weekend.  This year, however, attendees must purchase a spot in one of seven 2-hour “flights” or time periods, that give them access to ArtsFest for just a two-hour period, so that the festival won’t exceed the mandated capacity limits. Naturally, this means a limited number of tickets are available for this year’s ArtsFest. “If there’s a particular time you want to be on the street and out visiting with artists, buy your tickets early, so that way you can get access to that time. Once they’re sold out, they’re sold out, and we won’t be able to let more people in until the next wave.”

The two-hour flights on Saturday May 1st are: 10am-noon; noon-2:00pm; 2:00-4:00pm; and 4:00-6:00pm.  On Sunday May 2nd, ArtsFest gates open again at 10am, so the flights are 10-noon; noon-2:00; then a three-hour “flight” from 2:00 to final closing time of 5:00pm.  “So that last ‘wave’ of the event is actually a 3-hour ‘wave,’” Forrester said. “So if you want a little bit longer to be able to shop on Sunday afternoon, that would be the best time to come for sure.”

This year's ArtsFest will present than 100 artists, 15 food vendors and numerous local performers.  “A lot of our ‘regulars’ will be there,” according to Leslie Forrester. “Some are not, because they just haven’t been rehearsing the last year. But I think we’re going to have about 50 different performances across four stages.” She said they will create a kind of “food park” for the food vendors on the University Plaza parking lot. “There will be a music stage there and food, so you can grab your bite to eat before you head down the street to visit with artists. There will still be a lot of the elements that people come to the festival for.”

Forrester said they are “hovering (at) right about 100” visual artists this year, “because all of our booths will be six feet apart. So we didn’t have as much ‘footprint’ to work with this year. And it really works out—some artists aren’t travelling.  We’ve traditionally had several international artists, who obviously won’t be able to be with us this year. We’re so sad to miss them.” Of the 100 artists participating, she said “a lot of them are returning folks that you might have seen before; quite a few local folks as well. So there will still be something for everybody.”

Masks will be required of patrons and participants, along with whatever social distancing can be practiced.  “Again, out of an abundance of caution, it’s just still the standard to wear a mask,” said Forrester. “And It’s one of those things, that we’re really hoping to find some normalcy in a really crazy time. It’s just the things we have to do, to wear a mask and to be distanced, and just be aware of those safety protocols.  We’re not trying to trample on anybody’s fun. We can still have fun—we can wear masks and celebrate with one another to see some of these things finally returning.”

The Arts Council put out an urgent call last week for ArtsFest volunteers to help on-site. Leslie Forrester says that as of Friday April 23rd they’re “doing pretty well, but we can still use help, especially in the afternoons.  A lot of people like to come first thing in the morning and volunteer, sell some sodas, take tickets at the gate, and spend the afternoon at the festival. But we always need people in the afternoons to help us, particularly at the gates. I think we’re just looking for maybe eight more people Sunday afternoon, and four more on Saturday. But the more help we get, the better, because of our extra steps to keep everybody safe. So, we’ll have security at gates to help support volunteers. There’s just going to be a ton of support, and I really think it’s going to feel like a big, giant celebration.”

Information about, and tickets for, for ArtsFest are available at https://www.springfieldartsfest.org, or by calling the Springfield Regional Arts Council at (417) 862-ARTS (2787).