Annual Thornebrook art festival returned in 2021

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Clear blue skies and crisp, cool air brought crowds to the 36th annual Thornebrook art festival over the weekend.

“You can’t beat the weather,” festival visitor Cameron Wilson said. 

Wilson spent the fall Sunday afternoon walking around appreciating the art with Cookie, his 4-month-old Australian Shepherd Poodle mix. He has lived in the area for nearly 20 years, but he said this was his first time attending the festival. Attendees waded through numerous socially distanced booths and stands while mingling and munching on Old Fashioned Original Kettle Korn. Cookie ate pieces of dropped popcorn off the ground. 

Last year, the annual Thornebrook art festival was one of the many activities and traditions put on pause in the name of public safety in 2020 because of COVID-19. Now, Thornebrook is adapting to the new ways of operation.

“We’re trying to make this as good as we can make this in the circumstances present,” Joe Dorsey, Hoggtowne Music store co-owner and the festival’s art director, said. 

Dorsey’s main goal for the event this year was to have people come out to support the artists, even if it was just through attending. 

“I believe 110% that we are a community,” Dorsey said. “We’re not just a singular group of people. These folks more than any other group of folks have been absolutely kicked in the pants economically with COVID and the shutdown.”

The festival, which is held at the Thornebrook Village Center, is rooted in history for both the visitors and the artists.

Tiffany Nader handcrafts themed jewelry for craft shows across the state. (Zoey Robinson/WUFT News).

“Some of the artists have been a part of this for almost two decades,” Dorsey said. He added that some festival visitors come regularly, eager to see the art created by new vendors. 

The festival took place Oct. 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and had the same artists, food and activities for both days.

Entertainment varied and included performances from guitarist Eric Diamond and the Gainesville Youth Community Jazz Ensemble on Sunday. Local restaurants Cintrón and Bageland opened for business during the festival. 

Tiffany Nader has brought her jewelry to Thornebrook and other craft shows across Florida for the past six years. In years past, her mom helped her make the pieces. This year, her dad helped set up her booth for the event.

“I love the location, and I love the plaza,” Nader said. “I love seeing everyone walk around enjoying our art.” 

Nader creates themed necklaces and bracelets inspired by Halloween, Christmas and the Florida Gators. She buys the beads to craft her jewelry from other small businesses. 

Besides jewelry stands, other booths included specially colorized photographs, historical postcards and wooden kitchen bowl sets. 

Dorsey oversaw behind-the-scenes operations including scheduling vendors and artists for the event. 

“Everyone makes it sound a lot harder than it actually is,” Dorsey said. “It’s really not that hard.” 

According to Dorsey, about 70 applications to be a vendor were received to fill the booths. They left a few spots available for last minute applications as well. 

The lack of festivals during the height of the pandemic made it difficult for artists to financially support themselves. Many events, just like Thornebrook, had to skip events planned in 2020.

“It was hard, but I totally understand they had to do what they had to do,” Nader said.

Because most artists are independent contractors, they did not qualify for many of the pandemic-
related aid that other small-business owners qualified for. 

Dorsey thinks it is important to have an art show because so many others were cancelled, which made financial hardships brought on from the pandemic even more challenging. 

About Zoey Robinson

Zoey is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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