Don't let art festivals overwhelm you. Prepare ahead to see what's most important. You can usually find information and a schedule of activities online before the event. Use it to prioritize what you want to see during your visit. There may even be a map for outdoor events so you can plan your route.
How to Enjoy Summer Art Festivals and Fairs
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.
Have you ever attended an art festival?
It doesn't matter if it was indoors or outdoors.
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.
Let Your Children Experiment with Fingerprint Art
Give them a book by Ed Emberly
|Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book|
|Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals|
|Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a World|
|Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book|
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