Downtown art festival draws diverse crowd

Festival goers gather at the LAAF festival downtown on Aug. 31. Photo Illustration by Tina Langford - Staff Writer
Festival goers gather at the LAAF festival downtown on Aug. 31.
Photo Illustration by Tina Langford – Staff Writer

By Tina Langford – clangfor@unca.edu – Staff Writer | Sept. 3, 2014 |

The faint aroma of beer and patchouli oil permeated through the air during the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival’s return to Asheville last weekend following an absence in 2013.

Thousands of guests filled the streets from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday for the local art, music, food and beer.

“I am so glad it’s back this year,” said Susan Marino, a local high school teacher. Marino met her husband at the festival approximately 10 years ago.

The city has expected a crowd of up to 300,000 people since the late ‘70s for the annual Bele Chere festival, but after its permanent cancelation this summer, any and all other festivals are much more anticipated.

“We come back every year for the music and excitement,” Marino said. “It’s really special to us. It really brings people together.”

The festival featured more than 75 artists, craftsmen and food vendors, all of which are local to the area.

From homemade soaps and hand bent silver to elaborate abstract paintings, a wide variety of arts and crafts hung for sale and on exhibit for festivalgoers to appreciate.

Just beside the LAAFF main stage, local food trucks such as The Lowdown and Pho Ya Belly offered their local, farm-to-table style cuisine.

Street musicians and more than a dozen live bands filled the streets with lively music and sounds. With genres anywhere from blue grass to reggae, there were tunes for everyone to dance along with and enjoy.

“I have seen so many unique things today,” said Jenna Tantillo, who moved to Asheville only a year ago.

Asheville is known for its odd street performances and persistent political protesters, which also added to the festival’s excitement.

“Just the people alone are entertaining. The vendors have very creative art for sale and the food is so good,” Tantillo said. “All that, with the tasty libations offered, made for a very memorable day.”

Commonly referred to as Beer City, USA, beer always becomes a major focal point of any festival in Asheville. Local breweries such as Highland and Lab staged their tents in the middle of the crowd flow, easily becoming a main attraction for the thirsty festivalgoers.

“By far the best part of the festival is the beer,” said Brandon Wellman, a thirsty festivalgoer himself.

Wellman said he attended the festival in previous years and plans to return.

“It’s nice enjoying the local breweries and what they have to offer.  Asheville’s beer scene is great. I love going to festivals where everyone is drinking and having a great time,” Wellman said.

Being the end of summer, the festival gave way to the start of the Asheville tourist season. Many people traveled to Asheville from across the state to attend LAAFF this year.

“We love the free vibes here,” said Nicole Cliggs, a Raleigh native. “We’ve had so much fun this weekend and everyone is so friendly and happy.”

Cliggs and her friends traveled to Asheville for her birthday to attend LAAFF. They reveled over the colorful and spirited crowds walking the street.

“We have met a ton of people today,” Cliggs said. “We brought things to paint our own face with and somehow managed painting everyone else’s faces in the process.”

The girls enjoyed the drinks and festivities, planning to return again the next year.

“We absolutely love Asheville. It was by far worth the drive,” Cliggs said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *