Gloucester Daily Times

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Date: 
Oct 1 2008
Jenn Sherr (left), owner of JennSherrDesigns helps Sherri Gray of Danvers pick out a bracelet during the Manchester Art Festival. Gray went browsing around after her ballet Class.

Arts fest debuts this Saturday
By Michael Farrell
Staff Writer

MANCHESTER — For 31 years, the town of Manchester has hosted a Sidewalk Bazaar through the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce. As far as Manchester business owner Chuck Hayback is concerned, though, the 2007 bazaar was the last one. This year something entirely new is taking its place, "The Manchester Arts Festival" and it debuts Saturday.
According to Hayback, who is co-chairing the festival with Beach Street Studio owner Joan van Roden White, as the years progressed, the sidewalk bazaar had deteriorated and was losing its local character.
"It was a sidewalk bazaar, and we like to say the focus was on the bizarre part," said Hayback, owner of Nor'east Frameworks on Beach Street.
The arts festival, which starts at 9 a.m., Hayback said, will be a classy event better suited to Manchester's beautiful setting. Instead of having booths huddled in front of Town Hall, they will be spread out along the sidewalks and parks of downtown Manchester from Seaside One to Harbor Point.
"The idea is that basically the people can park anywhere and roam, " Hayback said. Folks can then wander comfortably around town looking at the handcrafted wares from local artisans and artists. Plus, unlike the imported goods of the bazaar, the art that will be sold at this Saturday's festival will be displayed by its creators, most of them from Essex County.
A variety of crafts will be for sale, including wood-cut prints by Angelo Aversa, decoupage bags crafted by Jenn Sherr, and paintings by notable Salem artists John Hutchinson and Racket Shreve.
And while there will not be any hot dog and cotton candy stands, in keeping with the upscale theme, local restaurants will be offering festival specials. The Coastline Grille on Beach Street, for instance, will be selling crab cakes to the artists and pedestrians, and Kim Shea, co-owner of the Grille with her husband Jay, said they'll be hosting a funk band called the HD's.
In addition to the visual arts, people perusing the stands will have their ears graced throughout the day with the musical arts. Through the efforts of Kathy Connolly, coordinator of media and entertainment, five groups will play during the festival. And of them, Hayback is particularly excited about the performance of world-renowned fiddle virtuoso Lissa Schneckenburger, who will be playing what Hayback called, "that rootsy, old, traditional, New England music." (See related story, Page 11.)
As a finale to the festival, an hour after the stalls close at 5 p.m., the 25-piece North Shore Concert Band will be playing Broadway tunes at Masconomo Park until eight.
"There's a good amount of local flavor," Hayback said of this year's festival. "And its one of the things that we really wanted to accent."
To make sure that all the artists who will be displaying their wares at the festival were top-notch, each applicant was put through a screening process by three knowledgeable art critics: Margie Florini, a North Shore artist; Bonnie Crane, an art dealer; and Katerina Gates, former head of the Manchester Cultural Council.
When commenting on the work that was reviewed, Hayback said, "All we know, is that when we saw the work, we were blown away by some of the people."
After seeing the degraded state of the Sidewalk Bazaar, Hayback said he approached the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, who organized it, and proposed that it fix the bazaar up. Seeing that he cared so much about it, the chamber placed him in charge of reinventing the bazaar along with White, the festival co-chairman, as well as with Connolly and Florini.
When it came to organizing the event, the hardest part, Hayback said, was collecting the artists.
"If we get the artisans then everything else would fall into place," he said. And since the project began in January, they have organized more than 50 artists from a variety of disciplines.
Michael Farrell can be reached at gt_reporter@gloucestertimes.com

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