ArtsFest draws crowd
ATHENS - At the 13th Annual Artsfest last weekend, there was a chess champion who played all comers and who in the past had played Bobby Fisher, according to the committee that organizes ArtsFest.
Alex Dunne, 70, of Sayre had won the Pennsylvania state chess championship in the late 1980s in a tournament sponsored by the United States Chess Federation, and he set up a table for his matches Sunday outside the Harlan Rowe Junior High School in Athens, where the two-day festival was held.
At the festival, Dunne won all 16 matches that he played on Saturday and all 18 that he played on Sunday.
"It's a way to help develop chess in the area," Dunne said about his participation in the festival. People enjoy watching the spectacle of the matches, he added.
Dunne said he didn't get tired from playing chess for four hours on Sunday at ArtsFest. "It's a great game," he explained.
Dunne's chess matches were one of the many attractions at this year's ArtsFest, which featured four stages on which music groups and other live entertainment performed simultaneously, 140 to 150 artisans selling their wares, a variety of food vendors, kids' games, a petting zoo, a Chinese auction, horse-drawn wagon rides, informational booths manned by community groups, and much more.
There was a record attendance of over 35,000 people at the festival this year, which took place Saturday and Sunday, organizers said.
District pottery teacher Dave Webster, who had founded the festival, attributed the large attendance to good weather, the continual growth in the offerings at the festival, work of mouth spreading about the festival, and increased advertising.
"A lot of people (food and crafts vendors) sold out and had to leave (the festival) early," due to the high attendance, said Bill Crouse, a member of the committee that organizes ArtsFest.
Mark Panty of Etters, Pa., said he sold 80 percent of the nearly 400 handcrafted trivets that he had brought to the festival, in which dried botanical materials - such as flowers, banana slices, and orange slices - are encased in clear, durable plastic.
"I do the 40 largest craft shows on the east coast and this (ArtsFest) ranks right up there" in terms of the amount of goods that a vendor can sell and the quality of staff that organizes the festival, he said.
"We are really happy with the quality of artisans that are here," said Webster, who is the director of the festival. "Their work is top-notch."
Artisans and crafts vendors have to go through a jury selection process where their work must be reviewed and approved by a committee before they can sell it at the festival, organizers said.
The large majority of the artisans and crafts vendors at the festival are professionals, and the rest are students.
The Athens Artsfest started off small when it was founded in the late 1990s.
The first year, the festival consisted of an outdoor tent under which Athens School District students operated pottery wheels, a booth where other students sold their art work, and a few professional artisans selling their wares, said Athens School Athens School District art teacher Louella Gilbert.
Gilbert pointed out that the while the festival has expanded over the years, it still contains its "original core," where students operate pottery wheels outdoors and supervise members of the public as they try their hand at a pottery wheel, as well as booths where students sell their art work.
Students also did face-painting at the festival this weekend and worked with the public on a six-foot-tall plaster gauze statue of the Dr. Seuss character Lorax. The process for creating the statue is similar to working with papier-mache, Gilbert said.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (5700 265-1633; or email: email@example.com.