This weekend marks the 35th Annual Boardwalk Arts Festival in downtown Bethany Beach. Held on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this year’s event will include more than100 fine artists, featuring paintings, woodwork, metal, clay, baskets, jewelry, porcelain and more.
“It’s a very successful high-end arts event,” said Lauren Weaver, event and member relations manager for the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. “It’s a juried event, so the process begins around January.”
Weaver said the jurors who help select the participating artists are local artists and Chamber members.
“We have a group of jurors that go through and rate and grade all the work that comes in, and the top 100 artists are selected for the event,” she explained.
Weaver said the event has grown over the years, with approximately 7,500 people attending last year.
“It has grown with the town. As the town has grown in its notoriety and being a destination for people in New York, D.C., New Jersey, it has just grown in popularity. It’s a great weekend, since all the kids have gone back to school and all the craziness of Labor Day has passed. It’s a nice extension into the fall season.”
Weaver said it is important to the Chamber to provide support to the area’s artists, and in doing so to also help extend the shoulder season for the local community.
“One of our main goals at the Chamber is to grow out the shoulder season for our businesses — especially a lot of the oceanfront communities that depend on the summer. As we can extend that season for them, it’s really beneficial to bring people into town after the summer season has ended.
“Quite a few of our Chamber members are local artists,” she noted, “and we have a great relationship with them. Their artwork is displayed here within the Chamber itself, and it goes the whole way down to the children.”
In fact, for the past seven years, the event has also helped raise money, through a silent auction, to be donated to Lord Baltimore Elementary, John M. Clayton, Phillip C. Showell Elementary and the Southern Delaware School of the Arts, to help support their arts programs.
“The silent auction benefits four local elementary schools’ arts programs,” Weaver noted. “Having that appreciation and culture down here for the arts, having that be of importance down here and supporting it, is critical for our local kids and our artists in the local community.”
Weaver said that most of the 100 participating artists have donated a piece of their own work to the silent auction, to benefit the four elementary schools.
“Up on the bandstand all day, people can place bids on the donated items, and then all the money collected over the day will be divided up and given to those schools.”
Last year, the event raised $1,800 and, this year, Weaver said the Chamber hopes to raise $3,500.
“One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the schools,” she emphasized.
Along with the artists displaying and selling their work along the bandstand, this year the festival will also feature a unique Saturday session of the Bethany Beach Farmers Market, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the PNC Bank parking lot at the corner of Garfield Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue. There will also be a wine tasting from 3 to 5 p.m. at Sedona restaurant, in collaboration with Beach Liquors.
The wine tasting will pair three reds and three white wines with food create by Sedona’s chefs. Tickets for the wine tasting cost $20 each and may be reserved in advance at the Chamber’s Web site.
“We’ve done an expansion this year. Before, it was the artists just up on the bandstand area. This year, we have made it our goal to expand it to all of downtown Bethany,” said Weaver. “By offering more to do, we really hope to impact the town in a positive way.”
A children’s corner will also be available for all the kiddies, at Lighthouse Station.
“That’ll include face painting, games and crafts. The nature center will be up there with their bug guy and magnifying glasses. We’re really excited to make it a full festival, and not just a show,” said Weaver.
WGMD’s Mike Bradley will also be doing a live broadcast near the silent auction that day, which Weaver said should make for a fun time.
“We just hope people will come out to support our local artists, businesses, and especially the arts in our local schools.”
“The Boardwalk Arts Festival is just another way to bring people into town,” added Laren Hughes, events director for the Town of Bethany Beach. “Just like the Seaside Arts Festival, it supports the art community and all of the artists. It’s a great setting and great venue for it.”
For more information on the event, or to purchase tickets to the wine tasting, visit www.bethany-fenwick.org or call (302) 539-2100.