Prelude to Progress: Festivals

Jul 30

By Meg Moss

Sanford’s music, arts and festival scene is alive and growing.  This past April, Sanford and Lee County residents, along with visitors from neighboring counties, enjoyed the inaugural StreetFest and Fireworks festival. The streets of our newly renovated downtown were lined with food trucks, children’s activities, demonstrations of karate and salsa dancing, and active yoga classes. People were pouring out onto the sidewalks from each of our restaurants.  And the live bands enjoyed the audience made up of those who set up lawn chairs in front of the stage, and folks walking the streets between vendors. And while there was no official competition, my personal favorite food truck item was the bacon wrapped taco. The evening of April 22, 2017 wrapped up with fireworks over downtown. People filled Depot Park, and stood along Moore and Wicker Streets to watch the 20 minute display. It was an exciting day for event attendees, as well as a celebration for all those involved in the streetscape project.  It was such a success that event coordinators are already planning for the next Streetscape.

Another festival-type event held in Sanford each year is Function at the Junction. This Thursday, August third, marks the return of the popular event at Depot Park. For years, Downtown Sanford, Incorporated has spearheaded this series of concerts. The series is designed for families and music enthusiasts to bring out their lawn chairs and enjoy a great show. You often see children dancing to the music in front of the outdoor amphitheater, adding to the fun of the event. This week’s Function at the Junction features Kelley and the Cowboys. Their early country standards, heart wrenching ballads, rockabilly numbers, waltzes, upbeat originals, and exciting instrumentals are sure to keep the crowd entertained. The event starts at 7:00 pm, so be sure to grab some dinner downtown before heading to the show. You can also bring your own dinner and drinks to the park. The series runs each Thursday night, and concludes on August 31st.  Function at the Junction will say goodbye to the summer that night with a concert by the Petty Thieves. Other shows throughout the season are the Heart of Jazz Motown Night, 80’s Unplugged, and Faith Bardill & the Back Row Saints.

And the largest festival in Sanford started five years ago when local visionaries banded together — artists, officials and community leaders — to create the Sanford Arts & Vine Festival, a two-day celebration that blended popular elements of a former pottery festival with new ideas to become what organizers call “a celebration of creativity, talent and tradition.”

Tom Snell, a local insurance consultant who serves as marketing director for the Sanford Arts & Vine Festival Committee, was the prime mover and shaker behind the idea. He says the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce quickly stepped in at the inception of the idea, and the festival has been a community effort ever since. “This is the largest two-day event in Lee County and it brings a tremendous number of visitors to our area,” Snell said. “When we promote the festival, we are promoting Sanford and Lee County. And when we provide funding for a local arts-focused charity, we improve the caliber of the product that charity offers our community.”

David Nestor helped cultivate a tent highlighting North Carolina craft beer and wine — the “vine” part of the Sanford Arts & Vine Festival. As co-owner of Adcock and Associates Real Estate, Nestor is community-oriented and says the festival reinforces Sanford’s identity as an arts community. “What Sanford has going right now is really special,” Nestor said. “With the Sanford Arts & Vine and events like StreetFest, that puts Sanford head and shoulders above other cities. As a real estate guy, I love it.” Snell attributes the Sanford Arts & Vine Festival’s strength to sound financial footing, solid leadership and ideas to expand its geographic reach.

Adcock and Associates plans to launch a companion event during the holiday season, Sparkles and Spirits, which will mimic the original and donate its proceeds to the local Boys and Girls Clubs.

With Function at the Junction’s growing popularity, the Arts & Vine Festival establishing itself as a cultural force, and the addition of the StreetFest and Sparkles and Spirits, Sanford is proving its capabilities to develop thriving festivals and events to draw locals and visitors alike.  

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