Split on Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival

Late last week, the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival Foundation and the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce both sent out press releases announcing the Chamber would no longer be directly involved with the festival.

“Throughout the years, an independent Arts and Crafts Festival committee has worked in conjunction with the Chamber and the City of Fairhope to produce a festival that has attracted thousands of visitors to the city,” the Foundation release said. “However, as time as has passed the two groups have realized that they have basic philosophical differences.”

The Foundation said their main concern is increasing the quality of the festival and that it was important to them that proceeds for the Festival go back to the Fairhope community, supporting non-profits like the Eastern Shore Art Center, Theater 98, scholarships for Fairhope High seniors and the Fairhope Volunteer Fire Department.

“The Chamber did not share the committee’s vision,” the Foundation’s release said.

The Foundation said they will continue to work with the City of Fairhope on the Festival.

“The Foundation really feels that this is the only solution,” Debbie Floyd, President of the Festival Foundation Board, said. “We have tried to come to a mutual agreement with the Chamber, but it just wasn’t possible. The Foundation and the Chamber are too far apart in their beliefs on the Festival and its funds. We had hoped to work out a solution, but the Chamber declined.”

In their release, the Chamber said it had worked successfully with the Foundation, created after the 2016 festival, to produce the 2017 festival together and said the Chamber had a long history of working to help produce and promote the Festival.

“Since 1953, the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce has produced the annual festival with the goal of attracting visitors to come and experience the Eastern Shore,” the Chamber release said. “The festival has grown tremendously since those early days and will continue to attract artists and patrons from around the country.”

The Chamber said they have used their portion to support several initiatives that benefit Fairhope and the Eastern Shore, including two workforce development programs (Youth Leadership and the Student Training and Exploration Program), networking opportunities and educational workshops for local businesses and “maintaining a business-friendly environment by providing face-to-face opportunities to connect with local leaders.”

“Despite the new fiscal challenge ahead, the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce will not waiver on our mission to make the Eastern Shore the best place to live, work and cultivate business,” Chamber President Casey Williams said. “We will continue to work each day to find new ways to support our member businesses and meet their needs.”

Williams said the Chamber would continue to support the Festival even if the Chamber was no longer directly involved.

“The Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival plays an important role for the City of Fairhope, the Eastern Shore and Coastal Alabama,” Williams said. “We are confident that the festival will continue to be successful. The Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce will always support the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival, just as the Chamber supports all our local events that benefit the community.”

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