Each year, Bethany Beach closes its summer season with the traditional farewell of the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral on Labor Day. And, on the following Saturday, residents and visitors alike look forward to a slightly more relaxed post-summer atmosphere as they browse around the boardwalk and take in — and take home — the best art the area has to offer.
This year’s Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival is set to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9, and the only real concern for the organizers at the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce is the weather.
“It’s our 28th year. We’ve got it down to a science at this point,” said Chamber Events Coordinator Amy Tingle.
Indeed, the Chamber has managed to bring in 104 artists for the 28th edition of the festival, about half of whom are returning from previous years and half of whom are new to the show.
“There’s more fine art,” Tingle said of the 2006 art festival, which is a juried show of a wide variety of artistic media and styles — many featuring local scenes.
Tingle said the additional fine artists also mandated a physical expansion for this year’s festival. New this year will be a show area at the south end of the boardwalk, at Parkwood Street.
“There will be about a dozen booths down there,” Tingle noted, explaining that some of the additional artists wanted the larger 10-by-10-foot festival booths that are traditionally offered on the street ends used in the festival each year, necessitating the expansion of the festival area overall.
“All the old favorites will be returning,” Tingle said. Those favorite artists include some of the area’s best-known local artists, such as Laura Hickman, Jennifer Carter and Carol Dyer.
Newcomers to the show include well-known Lewes-based artist Abraxas, whose paintings of coastal Delaware’s landmarks and natural beauty have brought him to prominence. Tingle said that 2006 was the first time Abraxas had applied to be part of the show and the jury had quickly accepted his work as up to their exacting standards.
Also new to the Boardwalk Arts Festival is TossAmey Studio — a new Chamber member, Tingle noted. The team features the work of Matthew Amey, a former tattoo artist, and his wife, in photography, digital painting and even decorative tiles.
“We’re really excited about both of them this year,” Tingle said, noting that another artistic couple is traveling all the way up from Florida to participate in the show, and another is coming from Vermont. “They’re coming from all along East Coast,” she said.
As always, one of the featured elements of the Boardwalk Arts Festival is the silent auction of art by some of the festival’s most popular artists. Each year, the auction raises money to benefit the art programs at each of the area’s elementary schools.
“We raised $2,600 last year,” Tingle said with a note of pride. “The checks go right to the art teachers,” she added, explaining that the direct benefit to the art programs pays for supplies that the teachers would otherwise not have.
In addition, the 2006 festival will again feature the music of the Mystic Warriors, a world-music group, who perform without charge and sell their albums to the festival-goers who linger at the stall to hear the pan flutes and other ethereal sounds the band produces.
Several non-profit organizations have also returned to the festival in 2006, including the Lord Baltimore Lions Club, which will offer its traditional raffle, and St. Martha’s Episcopal Church, which will hold a bake sale of homemade goods.
Parking for the event will be at the Christian Church conference center, Tingle noted, at a cost of $5 for the day. That will free up parking for those heading to the polls in Bethany Beach’s town council elections that day, as well as offering the opportunity for voters to pick up some fine art while they’re out.
It means the only lingering concern for Tingle and all those behind the 28th Boardwalk Arts Festival is the weather and recent rains.
“We’re hoping it’s going to burn off. Hopefully, we’ll be out of rain by then,” Tingle said of Saturday’s kick-off to the fall season.
Indeed, while rains from tropical systems lingered in the area early this week and property owners continued to repair damage from Tropical Storm Ernesto, the forecast for Saturday was decidedly cheery. It called for only a 20 percent chance of rain with mostly sunny skies and highs in the mid-80s.
That’s not only a reprieve from what might have been a rainy forecast but exactly the kind of weather that brings art lovers from around the country each year to browse and buy from the more than 100 artists at the fall art festival on Bethany Beach’s boardwalk.