Cara O'Donnell Spring 2016
“There isn’t any other festival like Mayfair in the Lehigh Valley.”
That’s how executive director Arlene Daily describes the Mayfair Festival of the Arts, the Memorial Day weekend arts extravaganza that brings performing and visual arts to the Lehigh Valley. The Mayfair Festival, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary season this year, is known as an arts sampling opportunity designed to build audiences for the arts while building a sense of community.
Unlike festivals that focus on one art form, Mayfair offers a smorgasbord of arts and entertainment. There are dancers and dramaturges, comedians and clothing designers, poets and percussionists – and that’s just the beginning.
“What we do is put all the arts together in one fun festival, so people will get a taste of everything,” says Daily, who first became a part of the Mayfair Festival as an artist in 2005 and took the helm as executive director in 2012. “Maybe they’ll find some new art form to love and go to one of our local arts organizations to enjoy more of it.”
Browsing the Mayfair Festival is truly a weekend-long event. The Music Festival alone is seven festivals in one, with concerts in blues, bluegrass, folk, country, jazz, Celtic music and classic rock. Two artist markets offer the works of approximately 100 juried artists. Looking for handmade jewelry? One-of-a-kind wooden furniture? Original etchings or watercolors? Mayfair has all of these – and much more.
The Mayfair Festival’s World Cultures area features music, dance, spoken word and more from a variety of artists. The Fine Arts Gallery at Mayfair showcases some of the biggest names in today’s art world, and an experimental arts area encourages audiences to consider art in an entirely new way. The KidSpace area is all about fun – letting children of all ages get their hands dirty and try out their own artistic abilities. Also, attendees can snack or dine on a variety of options from local restaurateurs in the food vendor areas, and the wine and beer tents feature local libations.
While the Mayfair Festival of the Arts is well-known for its world-class arts, music and more, at the end of the day, community is the goal. Hundreds of local volunteers make the festival run like clockwork, and attendees often return year after year, making Mayfair a regular part of their Memorial Day weekend. While the festival has grown and evolved over its 30-year history, that sense of community is something that has not changed.
“It has a real family feel,” says Daily. “It’s a real family tradition. Children who once came to the festival with their parents are now bringing their own kids. The event is run by community members for community members. Sure, there are artworks worth thousands of dollars for sale and touring performers on our stages, but it feels like a real community affair. It’s big enough to bring great art and artists into the region, but small enough to feel safe and relaxing.”
The Mayfair Festival of the Arts will run from Friday through Monday, May 27 to 30, at the Allentown Fairgrounds, 302 N. 17th St., Allentown. For more information, including details on participating artists, visit www.mayfairfestival.org.