40 Years of Art, Music, and Fun
At Greeley’s first Arts Picnic in 1979, about 2,000 people attended. Last year? Between 15,000 and 20,000. “Over the years we added more music, more arts & crafts, and more kids’ activities. We figured out a way to take a serious subject – art – and make it fun,” says Rhonda Welch, festival coordinator for the city’s Culture, Parks and Recreation Department, “and people responded to it.”
From hand-made rocking horses and crocheted stuffed animals, to beautiful watercolors and stunning oil paintings, to hand-dyed batiks and fine art photography, says Welch, there’s something for everyone during the last full weekend every July.
Despite the name, however, there’s a whole lot more to the festival than just art. Like food, for instance: turkey legs and gyros and Philly cheesesteaks and crepes. There’s a beer garden, too. And Magicians. And a roving circus troupe. And music? It’s nonstop on two stages: salsa, honky-tonk, big bands – even an Elvis impersonator.
“We have people who come from all over the country,” says Welch. “I get calls from people who are planning their high school reunions around Arts Picnic just so that they can use the kickoff concert as their Friday night event, and families planning their reunions so the weekend can be on their things-to-do-in-Greeley list.”
Welch attributes the decades of success to a singular vision. “If we didn’t have the amazing committee that orchestrated that very first Arts Picnic,” she says, “we wouldn’t be celebrating 40 years in 2018.”
A Community Effort
What does it take to turn downtown’s Lincoln Park into a juried art show and festival of family fun? “A tireless steering committee and about 150 amazing volunteers,” says Welch, “plus a whole lot of hard work.”
Vendors and performers, in particular, appreciate what goes on behind the scenes: the planning, the logistics, the massive effort it takes to organize nearly 200 participants over a three-day event. (Not to mention the location itself, which offers plenty of cool shade on a warm summer weekend.) “I always hear from them how warm and welcoming the Arts Picnic is; how much they love the community and the people who come out every year for the festival,” she says, “and how this is their favorite show of the season.”
“There’s something for everyone!” –Rhonda Welch, Festival Coordinator