Despite some unpleasant rain and a chill in the air, the 16th annual Art on the Avenue festival went off on Saturday along Mt. Vernon Avenue through the heart of Del Ray.
While the elements did slightly complicate things for organizers, performers and the hundreds of artists and craftspeople displaying and selling their work, the day was still a cheery one that boasted a surprisingly strong crowd.
"I'm amazed at the turnout," chief organizer Pat Miller said, adding that Saturday's Art on the Avenue was the first one ever to be severely impacted by rain.
Miller didn’t have a count on the total number of festival-goers, but estimated that 15,000 to 18,000 people made their way through Del Ray on Saturday. Almost 50,000 people hit The Avenue for the 2010 festival.
Still, Miller said the vendors were pleased.
“Some of the new ones said, ‘If this is a bad day for this festival, I really want to come back when it is a good day!’” she said.
“It’s my biggest sales day of the year,” Schumaier said, adding that Saturday was no different. “I did have to text people to bring me a hat, scarf and other things [to stay warm].”
Patrick M. O’Brien, who specializes in original wood turnings, said he has displayed and sold his work at Art on the Avenue for the last seven or eight years.
"You lose track," he joked.
A West End resident works out of the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, O’Brien said the wind and rain did cause him some concern about keeping his work protected. But those concerns were quickly lost around 1 p.m. when the rain stopped and pedestrian traffic picked up.
“I’ve done several festivals over a period of time and this is now the only one I come back to,” said O’Brien, who was the Director of the Alexandria Public Library System for 15 years. “It’s the best crowd of all the crowds.”
While the rain didn’t dampen spirits, it was cause for some improvisation. Some of the children’s activities were moved off a playing field and into the Mount Vernon Recreation Center. The main stage at the farmers market lot was shutdown early in the afternoon after standing water near the sound system created a hazard.
And despite the abundance of raincoats and chattering teeth, attendees were still enjoying the art and music, opening their wallets, knocking off some holiday shopping and just making a day of it.
“To see the turnout in this weather, everyone really seems like they’re having a good time,” said Susan Gwarek, who was visiting from Buffalo, N.Y. “I definitely want to come back."