Smithfield Arts Festival debuts

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Smithfield’s inaugural Arts Festival, which made its debut Saturday, has been at least three years in the making.

In 2019, Smithfield and Isle of Wight County Tourism scrapped the town’s Olden Days festival in favor of a more inclusive and family-oriented event.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the replacement event’s cancellation in 2020 and again in 2021.

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When the town held its last Olden Days in June 2018, soaring temperatures caused several heat-related medical emergencies requiring the Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad’s intervention. Connie Chapman, tourism’s special events coordinator, had hoped to beat the heat by moving the festival to May. But nature had other plans, with temperatures on Saturday reaching into the low 90s.

“The temperatures kept a lot of people away this time, but I think for the first time, it went well,” said Chapman, who estimated attendance at 1,500 people.

The event included live theatrical performances. At the 1750 Isle of Wight Courthouse, local reenactors in colonial attire performed “Trial by Jury,” a play written by the late Doris Gwaltney based on an actual Isle of Wight County court case from the late 1700s. Outside Perfectly Natural Soap on Main Street, the Tidewater Dogs of War showed up in medieval armor despite the heat. The group of full-contact medieval duel reenactors includes members from Richmond to the North Carolina border.

Artists and crafters exhibited their wares along Main Street, which was closed to traffic for the occasion, while music and dance groups performed on the gazebo stage outside the Smithfield Times building.

Catherine Minga won best in show in the juried art contest, judged by Linda Glasscock Bunch, executive director of the Suffolk Art League.

Other awards were as follows:

  • First place, photography: Sharon Hardy
  • Second place, photography: Mike O’Shell
  • First place, painting: Randall Maynard
  • Second place, painting: Tammy Burgett
  • First place, 3D: John Tobin
  • Second Place, 3D: Kazuko Fuller

“All the artists and crafters gave us great feedback,” Chapman said.