Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival canceled, but celebration still planned

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Honey and Blue performs to a socially distant drive-in audience Aug. 13 in the Music in the Parks summer concert series presented by the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division outside of National Church Residences, 2335 North Bank Drive. A drive-in concert is expected to kick off Labor Day weekend Sept. 4.

The traditional show won't go on in Upper Arlington this year, but organizers are working on different ways to celebrate the arts in Upper Arlington over the Labor Day holiday.

By this time any other year, more than 100 artists from all over the country would be preparing to exhibit and sell original creations amid 20,000 attendees, daylong live music performances and an aromatic kaleidoscope of nearly 20 food vendors at Upper Arlington's Labor Day Arts Festival.

Simply known locally as "Festival," the event is a community signature. It dates to 1966, when local artists organized a public art show on Labor Day, and it's been carried on by the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division every year since 1983.

The 54th Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival was to feature roughly 150 visual arts exhibitors Sept. 7 at Northam Park before public health and safety concerns related to large gatherings during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced its cancelation.

While longtime traditions won't take place this year – including the on-site making and selling of handmade brooms by Vintage Broom Shop of McConnelsville – Cultural Arts staff members are crafting alternative ways to honor the festival and the arts.

"It was an extremely difficult decision to cancel Festival, but it was best for the safety and well-being of attendees, our staff, the artists and vendors," said Jodi Osborne, Upper Arlington Cultural Arts manager. "We still are looking at a variety of ways to celebrate art that weekend.

"We want to highlight artists that are living and working in Upper Arlington, as well as highlight artists who live and work in Upper Arlington and who were invited to Festival."

Osborne acknowledged the Cultural Arts Division has been scrambling since the event was canceled July 31. With less than three weeks before Labor Day, Osborne said she is "frantically trying to finalize" public showcases and interactive programs people can take part in from their homes.

What's materializing includes plans to highlight the artists who were invited to the 2020 Festival on the Cultural Arts page of the city's website, tinyurl.com/y4onvtgh, and on the Labor Day Arts Festival Facebook page.

"A video slideshow of their artwork will also be posted on the website and social media," Osborne said.

While a band hasn't been announced, a drive-in concert is expected to kick off Labor Day weekend at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 in the parking lot at National Church Residences, 2335 North Bank Drive.

Admission will be limited to the free show, and registration will be available at tinyurl.com/uafreeshow.

Among the interactive options will be a "fun facts" quiz about public art sculptures in Upper Arlington on the Labor Day Arts Festival and Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Facebook pages the week leading up to Labor Day, and people will be asked to share on social media art they've created in 2020 and use the hashtag #2020LDAF.

Osborne said she hopes to organize community tours in which local artists would display works on their porches or yards during allotted times so people can view them from sidewalks and streets. A route to the artists' homes would be posted on Facebook.

She said a community project is being designed through which residents would create "mini-artworks" that will be combined to form one large, collaborative piece.

"It might be something where people could be given directions to pick up a small piece of canvas and create something that they would bring back to be part of the larger piece," Osborne said.

One plan that has been finalized is to promote art in Northam Park.

While tents and vendors won't be set up on Labor Day, installations such as "yarn bomb" tree sweaters and other pop-up decorations will be placed throughout the park.

"Although the Labor Day Arts Festival is canceled, we believe it is important for the Cultural Arts Division to provide opportunities to celebrate art in the community over the Labor Day weekend," Osborne said.

"We want to take this opportunity to share popular components of the festival with the community in a new, different and safe way."

Updates about the Cultural Arts Division's plans for Labor Day weekend will be posted on the city's website, as well as on the Labor Day Arts Festival and Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department Facebook pages.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate

Honey and Blue's Adam Darling claps as drive-in audience attendees honk their car horns as a way to applaud the band at the end of a song Aug. 13 during the Music in the Parks summer concert series presented by the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division outside of National Church Residences, 2335 North Bank Drive. A drive-in concert is expected to kick off Labor Day weekend Sept. 4.