(September 2016) – Several changes have been made during the past year in planning for the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art since co-coordinators Amy Fischmer and Jenny Straub took over for long-time coordinator Georgie Kelly, who retired in December. Patrons may notice a few new “looks” to the festival and some surprise additional attractions when they arrive at the Madison, Ind., riverfront on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25.
The new coordinators presented their ideas and plans to the VisitMadison Inc. board in August, along with a bright outlook on building back the number of artist exhibitors in the 46th annual show.
During the Aug. 22 tourism board meeting, Fischmer and Straub reported that they have signed on 75 new artists so far “and the number is still growing.” Straub said a full show is 250 exhibitors, however the Chautauqua has not had that many exhibitors in several years. Their goal this year is for 225 exhibitors, which would be significantly up from the low of 180 who showed up last year.
“Currently, we have more than 200 registered and they are still coming in,” Straub said in late August.
Exhibitors offer all sorts of arts and crafts and jewelry on the streets of downtown Madison each September for the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. More than 200 exhibitors already are registered for this year’s event, organizers say.
More than 300 volunteers from dozens of local civic groups help put on the show, doing everything from parking cars to picking up trash and manning information booths. Organizers estimate that the juried art show annually attracts an estimated 65,000 people to Madison over the two-day event. Merchants also benefit, as do area restaurants and hotels. This year, a Hanover College marketing class plans to conduct an overall business impact evaluation of the show at no cost to the committee.
The new coordinators reported that the Chautauqua has a new Internet website this year that is “up and running.” New events include a “Chalk Walk” and pop-up skits to be performed throughout the festival grounds by Madison Consolidated High School drama students. The Chalk Walk will take place on Elm Street in a space previously used for exhibitor booths. But this year, the exhibitors on Elm Street from First to Second streets will be moved and incorporated into existing space on Vaughn Drive.
There will also be a new Demonstration Village this year at show featuring Ojibwa Dancers, a Miami teepee village with demonstrations, a blacksmith, leatherworker, chainsaw artist, coinmaker and a silhouette cutter. The Demonstration Village will be located just south of the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center.
Another change is the date of the artist poster signing and “reveal.”
Chautauqua committee members plans to announce this year’s poster artist and reveal the painting to the community on Sept. 14, followed by a poster signing on the Saturday of Chautauqua. In previous years, the poster signing was always held a couple of weeks before the festival. The name of the artist creating this year’s poster has not been revealed.
Yet another change coming next year will be moving the dates of Chautauqua to one week later on the calendar so that the show remains a week ahead of Louisville’s St. James Court Art Fair. The 2017 Chautauqua will be held Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, Straub said, to accommodate exhibitors who travel far to be in both shows on back-to-back weekends.
“It has happened before but not very often that we have moved the show to remain one week ahead of St. James,” Straub said. “It’s not a permanent thing.”
Rain on Ribberfest
This year’s Madison Ribberfest enjoyed a large crowd on Friday night, Aug. 19, but for the first time in the festival’s 15-year history had to cancel the last two acts on Saturday night, including headliner Los Lobos, due to rain.
Nevertheless, festival coordinator Kathy Ayers told the VisitMadison Inc. board on Aug. 22 that she considers the event a success. “We still had eight bands play over the weekend, which is a pretty good deal for $20.” She estimated the two-day crowd at more than 12,000.
The Downchild Blues Band was into its third song when Blues Bash organizers had to shut it down. Ayers said Los Lobos asked to come back to perform another year. Meantime, with the cancellation, one of the Los Lobos band members showed up and performed a solo act at Off Broadway Tap Room later that night, she said.
“The other band members went down to party on someone’s boat.”
Ayers also reported that she was told actor Jesse Eisenberg showed up at Madison Ribberfest on Saturday night. Eisenberg had been in Louisville, Ky. He starred in “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and played Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film “The Social Network.”
“If I had known he was there, we would have offered him a backstage pass,” Ayers said. “I don’t know where he went when it started to rain, but I hope he stayed dry.”
Opening Hatcher Hill
Madison’s team competing in the America’s Best Communities contest are staying busy implementing elements of their Strategic Plan as they await the next round of judging in April 2017. As part of its initiative to connect the hilltop with the downtown via a pedestrian and bicycle path, the city took control from the county of the former Hatcher Hill Road and in late August began clearing it with heavy equipment. Workers also hope to address drainage issues and stabilize certain areas. The road has been closed for many years.
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Plans are to eventually pave the trail and install safety barriers, according to Jim Olson, the project’s construction manager and a volunteer with the Heritage Trail Conservancy. The project is being funded from the $100,000 the city won in earlier rounds of the ABC contest and becoming one of only eight finalists vying for a grand prize of $3 million next year.
The ABC Team plans to hold a special event called “Try the Trail Day” from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, to celebrate the Hatcher Hill trail. A related project is expected to be completed by then on Mulberry Street. The team plans to open the entire trail, which includes the Heritage Trail, that day and allow dozens of civic groups to set up booths along the way to promote healthy living, according to tourism director and ABC Team member Linda Lytle.
“We have 20 partners working with us on this project,” Lytle said. “We plan to have people fill out response cards to give us feedback on the trail that we can later use in our presentation in the competition. Our goal is have 600 people out there that day.”
Andrew Forrester, the city’s Community Relations Manager and an ABC Team member, said, “We want to get as many people as possible out there so they can see what the Madison Connector could be. We want their ideas and feedback.”
He said the project is developing well, however, major challenges to connecting the entire trail are the traffic crossing at Michigan Road and Hwy. 7, and the distance from Mulberry Street to Hatcher Hill.
Forrester said there will not be a start or ending point on the trail that day, but rather people can join the trail at any point. “We’re hoping people will do this as they would normally use the trail. Hopefully, some will travel the entire way (seven miles).”
Forrester said the initiative will help the team report back to the ABC contest judges that the city has been successful implementing the Madison Connector plan. “This is an community engagement tool that the ABC judges want to see,” he said. “It implements the plan that we set forth to do by utilizing Hatcher Hill. They also want to see the community involved, so we hope to get a good crowd.”
In addition to Lytle, Forrester and Olson, Madison’s ABC core team consists of Valecia Crisafulli, Whitney Wyatt, Kim Nyberg, Matt Wirth and Lindsay Bloos.
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