Boardwalk Arts Festival preps for 29th year

This Saturday, Sept. 8, the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce will host the 29th Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Art Festival, in which more than 100 artists and crafters will bring their creations together for a day of entertainment and shopping. Many area artists, as well as those in attendance, look forward to the annual event.

“I absolutely love it,” said Aubré Duncan, who has participated in the Boardwalk show for the past six years. “It’s a chance for locals who can’t make it to shows up in Rehoboth and other places to come and see us. There’s always a great turnout.” She and fellow artist and friend Laura Hickman own The Gallery on Central Avenue, a display of their combined talents.

“It’s really fun to see artists together,” Duncan added. “The festival brings a lot of people into the town.”

She said that she is surprised how the attendance has grown over the years. “People mark their calendars ahead of time,” said Duncan. Part of the great turnout, she noted, comes from the attractive backdrop of the ocean. “There’s no better place to show your work than right on the ocean.”

Her partner-in-crime has been in every Bethany Boardwalk show since its start. “It’s been too many years to even think about,” Hickman said with a laugh. The number of artists featured has more than doubled since she began. “The show used to be in August, but it was too crowded, then. It’s a lot of fun at the end of the summer. There are still a lot of people that come out, and the show really brings extra interest.”

On the down side, the hectic schedule of the day usually prevents Hickman from visiting other artists and craftsmen. However, she plans on seeing returning collectors and customers throughout the day. “I get to see a lot of familiar faces,” she said. “It’s really the only time I ever get to see some of them.”

Another local favorite, Barbara Deitrick, said that the boardwalk show in Bethany is one of the best outdoor festivals in which she participates. “It’s a really good-size crowd that comes out,” she said. Deitrick experiments with a wide array of medium, from watercolors to color pencils, inks and oils. She recently returned from a show held on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, though she said the turnout elsewhere is never as widely popular as it is in Bethany.

“It’s a great time to have it here,” she said. “The locals are back in town. People come down for the weekend, and most of the crowds are gone. It’s a great feeling to come back to your home town and see everyone again.”

“It’s a nice end to a great summer,” she added.

Artists such as Philadelphia native Bill Cantwell participate in numerous art shows and festivals each year. “Part of the fun of my art festival lifestyle is the meeting of other artists,” he said. His first outdoor festival was the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit in New York in 1979. Last month, he participated in Mystic, Conn.’s outside art show, too.

“Over the years, I see many of the same people at festivals at far-flung shows around the U.S. Some of them have become good friends,” he said.

Cantwell’s oils, watercolors and serigraphs are largely influenced by his travels to the Caribbean and through Florida. For him, the Boardwalk Art Festival provides a perfect environment.

“Beach communities seem to be most responsive to my work,” he said, “since there is such an emphasis on the sea.”

Chamber Executive Director Karen McGrath has had her hands full leading up to the event, but keeps her head held high.

“We’re hoping for some great weather,” said McGrath. “We’re really excited about the new artists and the returning ones.”

One of the new features this year is the addition of local station B 101.7 They will be broadcasting live from Parkwood Avenue, an extended part of the festival new this year, from noon until 2 p.m., with give-aways, games and certificates to local businesses.

For more information about the art festival, call the Chamber at (302) 539-2100.