Story by Emily Johnson
Every year, the Hickory Museum of Art hosts the Foothills Folk Art Festival in October. This year, the festival was held in downtown Newton on Saturday, October 1st and was sponsored by Catawba Valley Medical Center.
The festival commenced back in 2005 when the Hickory Museum of Art first showcased folk art from the collections of Hickory residents Barry and Allen Huffman. Since then, the event has been held in locations in both Hickory and Sherrills Ford.
This year was the first time the event was held in Newton, as it was a collaboration between the Foothills Folk Art Festival and the Downtown Newton Development Association. “The Folk Art Fest is one of the biggest events with the most tourism that Newton has seen in years. It’s always been in Hickory or Sherrills Ford, so the fact that it was held in Newton this year was really big for us,” said Zach Perry, a senior at Discovery who is assisting the Downtown Newton Development Association. Perry was contracted to do drone photography of the festival.
The event drew in thousands of visitors, showcased over 90 folk artists, and featured two stages with nearly continuous live music performances. With the additional positive of almost perfect weather, the Folk Art Festival was an amazing, fun-filled day.
The Folk Art Festival is not only a haven for visual artists. Seven musical groups in total were present to play live music throughout the festival. One of the bands featured was a group called Sycamore Bones, who performed on the main stage around 12 p.m. “[The music] was good,” says Mr. Jody Dixon, a history teacher at Discovery and a Newton city council member. “I especially enjoyed the bluegrass.” Even if you didn’t pay much attention to the music, it undeniably served as a good background soundtrack while walking around.
The weather at the festival seemed to be perfect for the event. With temperatures in the 70’s, sunny weather, and low humidity, it was truly a wonderful day. “I thought the weather was fantastic,” continued Dixon. Rain and cold temperatures could have possibly ruined the event, so it is fortunate that the sun decided to shine.
There were many options available for food during the event. Restaurants, such as Blue Moon Tavern and The Corner Table, were nearby and open for lunch and dinner. If you didn’t feel like sitting down for a meal, four food trucks were also accessible and parked at the far end of the festival. Mr. Dixon says that he really enjoyed the Philly cheese hotdog he purchased. Others seemed to enjoy the “Wingz on Wheelz” food truck. Though there were long lines for the food, it seems the meals were definitely worth the wait.
Many artists attended the festival in order to promote and sell their art, including nationally acclaimed artist LaVon Van Williams Jr.
Born and raised in Florida, Van Williams Jr. grew up to attend the University of Kentucky and join their basketball team. However, he later decided to give up on pursuing a career in basketball and instead learn woodworking. Nowadays, he creates vibrant wood pieces that reflect on his life experiences and his work is exhibited and sold all over the nation. He was just one of the many prominent folk artists in attendance.
Discovery High School’s Art Club also attended the festival to run a face-painting booth. They worked the whole day, painting faces with anything ranging from mermaids to ninja turtles. Joanna Cardenas, a freshman in the art club, spent most of her time painting tigers on the kid’s faces. “I got called Tiger Lady,” she says, “That was the best part of the day.” It seems the booth was a success, as no kids left crying. “It was interesting to see the kid’s faces. It was either excitement or disappointment,” continued Cardenas.
Kids at the festival could also visit a booth that allowed them to make their own folk art. Creations included spiral snakes, animal art, jewelry, and colorful cable creations. There was a great effort to make the festival truly accessible for people of all ages.
The Foothills Folk Art Festival provided a relatively inexpensive and accessible day for residents of Catawba County and other individuals who traveled to the event. The food, weather, activities, and art created a great way to spend a Saturday. Many people are looking forward to next October when the Foothills Folk Art Festival comes back around.
Below are some pictures taken throughout the day.