Columbia fair, arts festival to merge

October 20, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Next year's Columbia City Fair will have a new name, twice as many arts and crafts vendors but no carnival rides or business booths, thanks to a merger of the fair and the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

"It's a perfect melding to create something bigger and better for Columbia," said Lynne Nemeth, managing director of the Festival of the Arts.

Tentatively billed "The Lakefront Birthday Celebration," the event will be held during the first three days of the 10-day arts festival, which has gained regional and national prominence, attracting such celebrities as Garrison Keillor, Itzhak Perlman and Taj Mahal.

Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president of The Rouse Co., which has leased space for both events, praised the merger.

"I think it was a natural alliance," Mr. Scavo said. "I think it will be a beneficial alliance and I think the community will be the winner."

This summer, the two groups began collaborating after the City Fair decided to drop its carnival rides, an attraction held on a Lakefront parking lot owned by The Rouse Co.

The rides occupied space that the City Fair wanted to use, said Connie Kraft, director of the Columbia Birthday Celebration, a nonprofit group that sponsors the City Fair.

"They take up a lot of space," Ms.Kraft said. "As we're using space along the Lakefront, giving them more space in the parking lot was a problem."

During the past 18 years, the fair has grown but has been restricted by the amount of usable space along the shores of Lake Kittamaqundi, Ms. Kraft said.

"There's a lake, there's a road -- you can't expand," Ms. Kraft said. "We've been limited. The mall is there, the lake is there. The space is finite."

The two groups also decided to merge to solve mutual problems and share each other's talents.

"It helps us because they'll be bringing their expertise, arts and -- crafts and entertainers on stage," Ms. Kraft said of the Festival of the Arts.

"We can bring the resources of both organizations to one event instead of two at the Lakefront," Ms. Nemeth said.

Carnival rides won't be the only thing missing from the fair. Businesses, which ran booths in the past, will be absent next year, Ms. Kraft said.

"You'll still have local community service booths," Ms. Kraft said, but "we will not be having any businesses at the Lakefront."

A four-member committee made up of two representatives from each group is planning the new event and studying the role of nonprofit community service groups and businesses.

Ms. Kraft said businesses are not part of the fair's mission to celebrate Columbia's founding. Organizers also had trouble in past years protecting the electronic equipment many businesses brought to the outdoor event.

She said businesses have plenty of opportunities to publicize their services at other county events, such as the business expos sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and The Mall in Columbia.

Instead, she said, businesses may help sponsor the fair, which is held during the third weekend in June.

Crowds next year will see more artisans, entertainers and the traditional cake-cutting ceremony to celebrate Columbia's birth, organizers said.

"Hopefully, we'll gain prominence as a regional arts and crafts show," said Ms. Kraft who wants to attract 60 or more artisans to the event.

The fair usually features up to 30 arts and crafts booths, while the arts festival attracts about 40, she said.

Despite the changes, the fair will remain essentially the same, organizers said.

"We'll still do it on the weekend," Ms. Kraft said. "We'll still have components of the City Fair. We'll still have arts and crafts and hopefully it will be the best of everything."

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