In a normal year, 25,000-30,000 people would make their way to Vergennes Township in September for the annual Fallasburg Arts Festival. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic limiting public gatherings, LowellArts made the decision to shift gears to a virtual event.
Lorain Smalligan, executive director of LowellArts, says it was obvious there was no way to hold the traditional event at Fallasburg Park given safety requirements and government restrictions. “We were also conscious that there were artists who probably weren’t going to be comfortable being there,” she explains.
However, the Fallasburg Arts Festival is not only LowellArts largest fundraiser of the year but also a significant source of income for artisans. Given that, along with the event’s long history, organizers didn’t want to forego the festival entirely.
“It was pretty immediate that everyone was saying: how can we be creative and provide a virtual festival?” Smalligan says. The answer was to develop an event that combines many of the elements of the traditional Fallasburg Arts Festival and even provides an opportunity for people to hear some music live and in-person.
Here’s a closer look at how the various parts of the Fallasburg Virtual Arts Festival, which is also sponsored by Meijer and Fifth Third Bank, will run this weekend.
Artisan Vendors and Demonstrators
A main attraction of the annual Fallasburg Arts Festival is the more than 100 juried artisans who spend the weekend selling their wares. A number of demonstrators typically attend as well to show how they make their art.
To replicate the feel of the festival, LowellArts will launch an interactive map at 10am on September 19, 2020 that will allow visitors to easily see and explore the various vendors. The launch time coincides with the traditional start of the festival.
Using the online map, visitors can click on vendor booths to be taken to pages with more information about the artists. There, they can view the art and learn how to make a purchase. All proceeds from purchases go entirely to the artist.
Non-profit organizations which normally run food booths have also been invited to submit information about their group for inclusion on the map. As for the demonstrators, these artists will also be profiled, and Smalligan says a pre-recorded video of one artist demonstrating her craft will be included.
Live Music at Camp Clear Sky
Listening to live music from local singers and groups is also a highlight of the annual festival. For the Fallasburg Virtual Arts Festival, music lovers will have two options to hear sets played by local artists including Eli Roe, Peat in the Creel and The Willeys.
A limited number of tickets will be sold for those who want to watch artists play live at Camp Clear Sky, a venue located on private property in Lowell Charter Township. There are three options for those who want to listen to music live:
- Saturday, September 19: 12-4pm
- Saturday, September 19: 4-7pm
- Sunday, September 20: 12-4pm
During each session, three or four artists will perform for an hour each. Tickets are $20 apiece and capped at 60 tickets for each session to ensure visitors are able to adequately spread out. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the Fallasburg Music 2020 page.
However, even those who don’t make it down to Camp Clear Sky can hear the sessions. All performances will be livestreamed on the LowellArts YouTube channel as well.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on on September 17, 2020 to reflect a change in the line-up and a new time for the second Saturday session. The earlier time and shorter session is in response to an advisory by the state to limit outdoor activities at dusk because of the risk of the mosquito-borne virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
For kids of all ages, pumpkin decorating is an annual highlight of the Fallasburg Arts Festival. While the festival is virtual this year, the pumpkins are still real, and there are bushels of them from Paulson’s Pumpkin Patch at the LowellArts gallery.
“They deliberately grow the pumpkins for us so they are small and cute,” Smalligan says.
People are invited to come and get a pumpkin for free to decorate at home. LowellArts is encouraging people to create a character for their pumpkin, including a name and special talents. Then, an image of the pumpkin can be uploaded via the LowellArts pumpkin decorating page.
Photos uploaded by 5pm on September 18 will be part of an online pumpkin display.
It wouldn’t be a Fallasburg Festival without a quilt raffle. This year’s quilt is entitled Blue Lagoon and was created by Dawn Ysseldyke. Raffle tickets are $2 apiece, 4 for $5 or 10 for $10. Proceeds benefit LowellArts.
Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or in person at the LowellArts gallery during normal gallery hours.
“At 5pm on the 20th, we’ll draw the winning ticket just like we were at the festival,” Smalligan says. The ticket draw will be livestreamed as well.
To learn more about the Fallasburg Virtual Arts Festival and for links to all activities this weekend, visit the LowellArts website.