January 7, 2005
Cross your fingers, and hope the storms move on by Sunday. A little luck, in the form of a clear sky, will offer East Valley residents a chance to cast off this week’s wet weather and head to Scottsdale, where a favorite festival is back to guide us into spring.
Sunday A’Fair returns to Scottsdale Center for the Arts on Sunday for its 16th season. This popular pageant of arts, crafts and open-air markets strung around live musical performance holds court from noon to 4:30 p.m. most Sundays through April 10 on the rolling lawns of the Scottsdale Civic Center mall. Visit www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org for the dates.
Steps away from the shops of Old Town and squarely on the doorstep of Scottsdale’s most popular performing arts venue, Sunday A’Fair blends live music, lawn chairs, people-watching, kids’ activities and innovative crafts together in an environment so laid-back it could be called The Anti-Mall.
"It’s just really relaxed," says jewelry maker and six-year vet Elaine Langsner of Scottsdale. "The people who come bring their children and their dogs. We bring our dogs when I work the booth."
Vendor booths selling handmade jewelry, clothes, knickknacks, paintings and photography, border the open lawns around the Scottsdale Civic Center. Families can shop, tour the fountains and sculptures or drop a blanket or lawn chair and soak up the work of local musicians.
"You have a nice mix of people," Langsner says. "Some are new, some remember you from the years before. It’s just a very nice Sunday, every time."
Sunday A’Fair’s open-air setting and schedule give the event a less commercial vibe.
"The work is good. Sunday A’Fair is a juried event, so vendors have to
submit slides of their work and their booth for approval," Langsner says. "But a lot of people, like myself, don’t want to set up for a three-day show. This is one day, and then you’ll be back next week." Buyers, likewise, feel less pressure because the artists don’t strike their tents and disappear for a year. "You get a good mix of new people, and people who remember you and like your work."
COMPLIMENTARY THANK YOU
Sunday A’Fair began as a goodwill gesture from Scottsdale Center for the Arts.
"I wanted to thank the city for its support of the center," says Kathy Hotchner, the center’s director. "So I wanted one event we could offer the public that was free." They decided to use the desert’s gentle winters and the scenic grounds between the center and the city offices for a weekly, open-air festival with live music. "We were looking for something fun, and something outdoors that would appeal to a lot of people and host multiple events."
Sunday A’Fair was an immediate hit.
"Two years ago, we added a children’s area because we wanted more for kids to do," Hotchner says. "That area has grown into a wonderful kind of ‘mini-festival’ where kids can make hats and create crafts of their own."
Crowds vary, as the weather does, over the course of so many Sundays. "People come to the early ones," Hotchner says. "You just don’t see them sunning themselves on the lawn as much." Attendance rises with the temperature. "We will peak during February and March — we have had as many as 6,000 people on a given Sunday. Then it drops off a little as March goes into April and it starts to get really hot."
A dependable roster of crafts and a diverse menu of musicians combine to keep attendance healthy through the early spring. "Each crowd is a mix of regulars who come every almost every week, and followers of each of the bands," Hotchner says. Each event features two new acts, playing noon to 1:30 p.m. and 2 to 4:30 p.m. on the outdoor stage. Singersongwriter Joel Anderson will kick off Sunday A’Fair on Sunday, along with blues band Big Nick and the Gila Monsters.
"Over the winter and spring, we’ll have jazz, blues, the Larry Redhouse Trio, and artists like Dennis Rowland," Hotchner says. "We shoot for a variety of artists, so there’s a little something for everyone."