An hour of dark clouds and a few sprinkles weren’t enough to slow Saturday’s Art on the Avenue festival, which bounced back this year with a crowd nearing 50,000.
“It was an amazing day,” said Pat Miller, chair of Art on the Avenue. “I think it was pushing 50,000 again. Felt like it anyway.”
A year ago, chilly temperatures and rain slowed things down at the volunteer-run, multicultural festival that celebrates diversity through the arts. Roughly 18,000 made the trek to Del Ray in 2011.
Saturday’s 17th incarnation of the festival tested Mount Vernon Avenue’s capacity limits at times but also showcased the neighborhood’s ability to throw a party for everyone from tots to adults—and in style.
Attendees enjoyed more than 330 exhibitors showcasing their arts and crafts along Mount Vernon Avenue, live music, food, demonstrations, children’s activities and more.
Festival-goers also got a chance to meet (or avoid) dozens of local candidates who were stationed at the festival's "political soapbox" near Pork Barrel BBQ. If so inclined, they even could have purchased a necktie from newly-elected Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th).
“It has just gotten bigger and bigger,” said Rosemont resident Joe Roeben. “It seems there are more carriages and dogs than ever.”
Roeben works as a potter but did not set up a tent on Saturday to exhibit his work. Instead, he sought inspiration from the work or others. Several potters from Roeben’s studio on Lee Highway exhibited and sold their work at the festival, he said.
“I find the crafts quite reasonably priced and of good quality,” he said. “In general, I find them outstanding.”
The event is typically one of the biggest sales day of the year for many artists and craftspeople.
“It’s a very big day and I find I do very well, even last year when it rained,” said Betty Mudd, a handbag maker from Southern Maryland who also dabbles in fall knits. “The neighborhood is very supportive of this event.”
Chris Nelson, an oil painter from Western Maryland, said Art on the Avenue is a big day for him as well. Saturday marked the third or fourth time he made the three-hour drive to Del Ray for the festival.
"I paint a little bit of everything. There’s no reason to be tied down to one thing," Nelson said.
He couldn't say if one particular type of painting did better than another in terms of interest.
“Art is a very individualistic thing,” he said.
“The customers here then become customers at the Torpedo Factory,” she said, adding that a woman she first met at a previous Art on the Avenue is now a regular patron of her studio. “It’s great advertising.”
When Miller organized the first Art on the Avenue 17 years ago, she modeled it after an annual multi-day art show in Ann Arbor, Mich. She spoke briefly with a man who lives in Ann Arbor on Saturday, who told her that he thought Art on the Avenue was better than the Michigan show.
“That’s a major compliment for me as when we started Art on the Avenue, with me being from the Midwest, the Ann Arbor show is what I talked about and what we wanted it to be like,” Miller said. "That was the compliment of the day."