How to Enjoy Summer Art Festivals and Fairs

by BarbRad

Summer art festivals and fairs can be overwhelming with so much to see and do, but proper preparation can help you get the most fun out of them.

Art Festivals Can Be Overwhelming

There is so much to see and do that one can't do it all.

My city of Paso Robles has several summer festivals that focus on one or more of the arts. I have participated in two of them -- the Festival of the Arts in 2010 and 2011, and the 2010 Lavender Festival. Both were all day events with a multitude of vendors and activities for all ages. For the sake of simplicity, I will focus on the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts. But what I suggest will work for any festival or fair you plan to attend that has multiple vendors, activities, and exhibits. 

When I attended my first Festival of the Arts last year, I had no clear plan. I picked up a brochure at the beginning and scanned it for activities that might interest me, but I also wandered around just to see what I could see. This year I was better prepared. Here's what I did differently this year.

Art Festivals Allow Opportunities to Meet Artists and Artisans

You can ask questions about the artist's work and methods and see a selection of his pictures.
The Booth of W.B. Eckert at the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts
The Booth of W.B. Eckert at the Paso ...

Have you ever attended an art festival?

It doesn't matter if it was indoors or outdoors.

There May Be Activities for All Ages

Consider your family's needs when planning what you will see.
This activity helped budding young artists get started and left them with a painting to take home.
This activity helped budding young ar...

Paso Robles High School Drumline

One of the many musical groups that performed at Festival of the Arts

Before You Attend Your Next Art Festival, Make a Plan

You can only see and do part of what's available, so decide what's most important.

If you have attended the same festival before, it will help you plan. Past experience may help you cross off activities you don't need to participate in again. It also might encourage you to explore certain events more closely this time around. When I attended the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts in 2010, I felt like Alice in Wonderland. I'd never heard of plein air painting, for example. I got a bit acquainted with it at the art festival last year, but this year I knew I wanted to learn more and watch the plein air quick-draw artists more closely. I will be writing a separate article later on what I learned. But I made sure that this year I made watching the plein air artists and seeing the auction of their paintings a priority. 

Of course, it's hard to make a plan when you don't know what's happening when. Most event planners post a schedule on the sponsoring organization's web site. The City of Paso Robles, for example, had a whole page devoted to advertising their Festival of the Arts. One could click through to the entire schedule of events so one could decide what was most important to see. That's what I did. 

I discovered that this year's festival would offer activities in many of the arts, including performing arts. Musicians and dancers were scheduled throughout the day for both adults and children. Interactive educational sessions and guided tours in painting, photography, and crafts were available at different times of the day. There were also a multitude of art enrichment and education activities for children on the schedule, from face painting and making zany hats, to painting and experimenting with real musical instruments in the musical petting zoo. Parents could decide ahead of time which activities their children would enjoy most.

Even landscaping art did not escape the notice of the planners, who are concerned about environmentally friendly and water-conserving gardening. There were several environmental activities aimed at both adults and children, including even a falconer who brought working birds used for sustainable agriculture. The California Native Plant Society was also represented. 

All these activities were in the City Park. A whole different schedule was available for Studios in the Park, a co-sponsor of the event, right across the street. They had another six musical performances, several art studios, and at least two juried art exhibits on display. I had been there the night before for the kickoff reception for the festival, so I had seen everything there but the musical performances that were only on Saturday. Perhaps you see now why a plan is necessary. Without one, you many miss some of what you are most interested in.  In case you are curious, I made a plan for this year, and this is how I spent my Saturday at the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts. 

Children Experiment with Fingerprint Art

This was inspired by Eb Emberley
Fingerprint Art Booth: One of Many Activities for Children
Fingerprint Art Booth: One of Many Ac...

Let Your Children Experiment with Fingerprint Art

Give them a book by Ed Emberly
Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book
LB Kids
$7.99  $1.37
Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals
LB Kids
$7.99  $3.00
Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a World
LB Kids
$6.99  $1.96
Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book
LB Kids
$12.99  $1.99

Brad Felger Has Brought Working Birds of Prey Used in Sustainable Farming

There are several areas where his consulting organization, Airstrike, provides service.
A Falcon Used for Control of Other Birds to Protect Berries and Grapes
A Falcon Used for Control of Other Bi...

Watercolor Demonstration by Popular Artist, John Partridge

He paints most of the Paso Robles landmarks.

Planning is Needed for More Than Activities

An all day festival can be physically taxing, especially if you have children along.

You will need to plan how you will meet the needs of hunger, thirst, and rest that will present themselves. Our festival in Paso Robles sells water and trail mix. I brought mine from home. We were also encouraged to patronize the restaurants surrounding the park, who had prepared special dishes for the occasion. If you have children, you might want to consider bringing your own food -- some to carry with you, and some to keep in cooler in the car. You will also want to carry or plan on buying water.

We were lucky this year -- the day was only in the seventies and breezy. Last year it was quite hot. Don't forget sunscreen. I came home with a sunburn last year. Also, make sure all family members have a hat. A fanny pack is also nice for keeping the  hands free and cameras handy. I also brought a tote bag with water, trail mix, an apple, and some fresh cherries with me. It contained extra sunscreen and some toilet paper and tissues. One never knows if supplies will be available in public restrooms at large events. It's also good to carry a few bandages in case someone manages to get a cut or scratch. There might have been a first aid booth, but I didn't see any information on it. 

If you think you might be doing some shopping with all those temptations to buy art, be sure to bring a checkbook as well as some cash and a credit card. I wanted to buy a book, but had not thought to bring a checkbook. The Native Plant Booth did not accept credit cards and I'd only brought a few dollars cash. 

If you spend the day at an art festival, your body, most especially your feet, will get tired. This is especially true if you're very young or not  young enough any more.  Try to plan some sitting activities during the day. I had not planned enough of them. Had I not done so much videography where I needed to stand to get the speaker's voice or be taller than the crowd, I could have been seated at some of the interactive talks. As it was, I had about ten minutes to sit at a nature talk and that was about it. I was ready to collapse by 4 PM, and had to skip the photography walk I had planned to take at that time. Instead I headed for Studios on the Park across the street and found a bench to sit on until I recovered enough to look around and then go home. I had not planned enough rest -- a danger anyone can run into when there is so much to do.  

To get the most out of your art festival, research the activities available ahead of time and make a plan that gives priority to those you don't want to miss -- for both you and your children. Also plan some rest periods or sit down activities for the sake of your feet. Determine what you will do when your family gets hungry and thirsty, and find out where the rest rooms are before there's an urgent need for them.  At the end of the day, you will be glad you thought ahead, and your family will be grateful. Now find an art festival you want to attend, plan ahead, and have a wonderful time 

Updated: 05/30/2011, BarbRad
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


cmoneyspinner on 02/12/2015

Definitely like the idea of the fingerprint art for kids. :)

BarbRad on 12/14/2012

I think some craft fairs are very much art festivals. I guess it depends on the quality and quantity of exhibitors. Many artists also create jewelry and other items often classified as crafts.

EssentiallyArahs on 08/12/2012

I never had the chance to go to art festivals much, but I did go to book fairs and school fairs...wait, do craft fairs count as art festivals? Anyway, love your article - I should have brought some snacks with me :)

BarbRad on 10/30/2011

Thanks for stopping by. I'm sorry you aren't a vendor. But you can still attend local craft shows. Most of the ones around here are free to everyone but vendors.

Guest on 10/28/2011

I really love art festivals. I miss being a vendor and miss being able to explore what fellow crafters are doing. These are such fun. Thanks for letting me join you.

BarbRad on 07/02/2011

You're most welcome, tenademoniimom. Wish you could have been there in person.

tandemonimom on 07/01/2011

I do love a good art festival! Thanks for taking me to yours!

Mary Beth on 06/28/2011

One of my favorite art festivals takes place each March in Jupiter Florida. It is called Art by the Sea. I always look forward to a good art festival.

BarbRad on 05/31/2011

Almost any festival I've attended here has the arts represented. You will find jewelry, paintings, drawings, glass art, and other crafts. It's really fun to see what people create.

Jewelsofawe on 05/31/2011

I once went to a garlic festival. It had cool art at it, and no, it was not garlic art, but all the food had garlic incorporated into it.

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