Festival History

2015 Art
2015 Festival Art

The history of the Fairhope Arts & Crafts began on February 22 to February 28, 1953.

The first Festival was actually designed as a tour, planned to coordinate with the Mobile Jaycees’ Azalea Trail and Mobile Mardi Gras celebrations. The idea was that visitors attending these major events in Mobile would be attracted across the Bay, thus allowing visitors and local residents a chance to see some of the many talents of Eastern Shore residents.

All exhibits were inside store windows and represented a wide variety of talents and interests. The tour schedule included entertainment and craft demonstrations and lasted for an entire week. Although some artists did sell items, the majority of the tour consisted of exhibits for viewing only.

2016 Art
2016 Festival Art

In 1965 the tour expanded to include exhibitors and activities from the cities of Spanish Fort and Daphne. The week’s opening ceremonies were held in Spanish Fort and ended with a play in Fairhope. The Chamber reported 4,150 visitors that year. 52 exhibitors and demonstrators were highlighted, in addition to another 41 artists who participated.

In 1967 there were more than a hundred displays, exhibits, and demonstrations. There was still no entry fee, but all participants were asked to pay a 10% commission on their gross sales.

By 1975 craftsmen displayed works and methods in “Craft-Houses”, which were created out of vacant buildings.

The show was condensed from six to three day for the first time in 1978. This was also the first year that craftsmen set up on the sidewalks, rather than in buildings and businesses.

2004 Festival Art

In 1983, prize money was awarded for the first time. The Best of Show recipient was given $250 and booths were moved from the edge of the streets to the middle. The Mary McGrath Award was established in 1984.

In many ways the festival really took off in the nineties. It was the first time there were more than 700 applicants and first time it was named one of the Top 200 Festivals in the United States by the Sunshine Artist magazine. Since then, the festival has received this same honor each year. Artists who participate in shows all over the United States vote on this award.

In 2016, we became a non-profit foundation, donating all net profits to promoting the arts in our community.

2014 Festival Art

Fast forward to 2022!

Our Festival has changed in many ways: we have grown from a handful of local artisans in shop windows to over 220 street booths with artists from all over the United States. We no longer charge the exhibitors commissions on their sales, just an entry fee. The number of visitors is now in six-digit figures, rain or shine, and the activities taking place in conjunction with the Festival – from the food court to fun runs --have grown by leaps and bounds.

However, the Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival’s purpose remains the same: to promote good will, to exhibit for show and sale the highest quality artwork and craftsmanship available and to showcase Fairhope -- one of the loveliest and friendliest places in the world. (Just ask anyone who lives here.)

Looking back as we approach this year’s Platinum Anniversary, we realize that part of the magic of the Fairhope Festival is that we are still a completely volunteer organization that shares the same excitement and enthusiasm and the same goal those planners and dreamers had each year before us: to make this year’s Festival the best one ever!

2013 Festival Art