Spring Fling: A warmup to the Anacortes Arts Festival

Anacortes Arts Festival

WHAT: Spring Fest
WHEN: 10am-4pm Sat.-Sun., April 22-23
WHERE: Deport Arts Center, 611 R Ave.
COST: Entry is free

WHAT: Anacortes Arts Festival
WHEN: Aug. 4-6
WHERE: Throughout downtown Anacortes
COST: Entry is free

505 O Ave.



Judging by the astounding array of events that take place during the Anacortes Arts Festival every August, it’s easy to believe claims by organizers that it takes more than 250 volunteers and as many as 2,000 work hours to put on the perennially popular three-day art party.

When I attended last summer’s soiree, I was struck not only by how much there was to do and see, but also by how smoothly the festival seemed to be running. As my date and I did everything from perusing indoor fine art exhibits and stopping by dozens of the nearly 300 outdoor vendor booths, to listening to live music, to watching artists create giant block prints with the help of an industrial-grade steamroller—something that really must be seen to be believed—and people-watching in city streets full of a sea of humans, I realized the herculean effort it must take to make such a big deal seem like it was second nature.

“There’s definitely an air of calm about us as an organization,” Executive Director Meredith McIlmoyle says. “We are all wanting Anacortes to be a very welcoming community, keeping in mind that when people come they want to enjoy art, listen to music, maybe have a glass of wine. That’s what gives that really happy—but not manic—feeling to the festival.

“And, after 56 years, we really do have a good blueprint,” she says, laughing.

McIlmoyle also points out that even if people already have Aug. 4-6 on their calendar to mark the dates of the next Anacortes Arts Festival, there’s another reason to make plans to visit Fidalgo Island before the seasons change.

The motive is Spring Fest, a mini-version of August’s big event that will take place April 22-23 at the city’s Depot Arts Center at 661 R Ave. At the former Great Northern Railway stop, 33 regional artists will display their paintings, ceramics, photography, jewelry, clothing, glass, sculpture and mixed-media pieces at an indoor Fine Art Exhibit (which can be seen daily starting Fri., April 14). Outside, booth artists—a number of whom will also be showing and selling their works in August—will share space in the plaza with food trucks, a beer garden, kid-friendly activities and artists engaged in demonstrating their works.

Additionally, there will be a “Do the Bloom” Color Run on the first morning of the Spring Fest, and an annual “Arty Party” taking place April 15 at the Depot that will boast dueling pianos, painting demos, art sales of works by homegrown artists, as well as an array of wine, beer and craft cocktails. Proceeds from the “not an auction” fundraiser will go to the school district’s Cultural Arts Program.

“We’re inviting people to shake off the effects of winter and come over the bridge to see what’s happening,” McIlmoyle says of the plethora of upcoming activities. “Spring Fest is also a way to do what we do well and bring more revenue into our organization, with the bottom line being the donation of money for arts programs for kids.”

In 2017, she says a total of $65,000 from combined fundraising efforts will go back into the community not only in the form of educational efforts for area youth, but also be used to purchase public art and make donations to a number of organizations such as the Anacortes Community Theatre, Fidalgo Dance Works, and La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art—which helps facilitate art programs with students from the Anacortes School District.

“The overall goal with the Spring Fest and the Anacortes Arts Festival is to have a great time while bringing arts programs into the community,”  McIlmoyle says. “But I love my job besides the fact that I know we’re providing money for these programs. We’re creating an opportunity to let people come and have a fun time celebrating what’s good about our world.”

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