As one of a number of fundraisers for the Yadkin Arts Council, the Yadkin Valley Harvest Festival will take place Saturday in its 41st year throughout the streets of downtown Yadkinville.
John Willingham, president of the Yadkin Arts Council Board of Directors, explained that the Yadkinville Jaycees started the event as the Sun Bonnet Festival. “It ran similar to the way it is now with the downtown closed off to traffic and a celebration held,” said Willingham.
In 1998, the Jaycees approached the arts council with an offer to hand the festival over to the arts organization. The arts council accepted and the Jaycees assisted them the first year of what had come to be known as the Yadkin Harvest Festival.
Shortly after, it was renamed the Yadkin Valley Harvest Festival, Willingham explained. “It’s a signature event for us,” he said. “I like that it brings thousands and thousands of people downtown for the day, for food, shopping, music, to walk around.”
“It’s got history at this point, just to get everybody together to enjoy the event,” said Willingham of what is special about the event for him.
While organizers have experimented with adding and adjusting the event’s offerings over the years, it remains steady with its variety of craft and arts vendors, direct sale vendors, foods and live music. Also, there are bounce houses and amusement rides to entertain the crowd.
“The [Yadkin Valley] Grape Festival started as a piggyback to us on the same day. We helped launch them,” Willingham said of the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce’s fall wine festival, to be held in October.
“It’s just great to close downtown off and have a day when it isn’t business as usual. There is no big agenda, just people wandering around and having a good time,” he said.
Lindsey Craven, executive director of the arts council, explained that the festival joins other fundraising efforts, such as grants from the North Carolina Arts Council, private donations, the annual fund drive which is kicked off by the Lip-Sync Battle, the Stephen G. Lyons Celebration and the Sweetheart Gala, in keeping the arts council operating. Also, any profits made on community theater shows goes into the annual fund drive.
The funding helps the arts council provide programming at Yadkin schools, community events such as the Halloween and Christmas in the Plaza celebrations, free movies at least once a month and more, she said.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve gone from nothing to what we are today,” Willingham said. “It’s been a quantum leap for an arts council. We had a part-time director, and now we have a huge staff and programming everywhere. The spurt of growth has been a challenge, but we are a force in this community and we have a huge impact.”
He said when people come in from out of town, the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center, where the arts council is located, is a show piece. “We’re excited about what we’re doing,” said Willingham. “We keep coming up with ideas. All this young energy keeps me on my toes.”
The Yadkin Valley Harvest Festival will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Yadkinville. The bandstand schedule and a map of the festival area, as well as comments from Willingham, can be found in today’s edition of The Yadkin Ripple.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.