Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rain Dampens Crowds, But Not Fun For Frostburg's Appalachian Festival.

Frostburg, MD - While a steady drizzle kept attendance down for the final day of the Frostburg Appalachian Festival, those who braved the rains were treated to a fun Saturday. The Festival, located on the grounds of Frostburg State University, featured food and craft vendors, local activist and historians, and two stages that hosted a continuous stream of bluegrass and folk musicians. For children, there were two stops with live animals and a tent where Frostburg Students were teaching them how to make corn husk dolls.

The musical acts were clearly the main draw for the day's festivities. Local resident Ellen Spiker, attending her second Appalachian Festival, decided that the rain wasn't going to ruin her chance for a family outing. When asked what her favorite part of the Festival was, Spiker explained that she was "enjoying the day with my mother, listening to bluegrass, and never leaving the covered areas."

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Things weren't quite as busy over at the corn husk doll tent. With few children in attendance the tent was mostly empty by mid-afternoon, but that didn't stop the kids on hand from having a good time. "Weather kept people away," admitted student assistant Meghan Voelkel, "but the kids are still having fun."

Some participants managed to see the positives of a rain soaked afternoon. Johnstown resident Micah Mood, guitar player for the band Striped Maple Hollow, confessed that "a captive audience is good for business" while surveying the baked goods offered by Sugar and Spice Bakery.

Despite a heavy deluge that nearly shut down the festival for good around 2:30pm the music kept playing and the fans remained on hand. Bluegrass band Blue Shades played two sets during the day, including one during the heaviest part of the storm. Sound engineer Jamie Kegg, who was kept busy during the storms maintaining two separate sets of equipment, looked on during the second set on the Compton Stage. When asked for his assessment of the event, Kegg explained that "the crowds were good until 2:30pm, then the rain hammered down" and drove people away.

Many of the food and craft vendors weren't as lucky as the musicians. The rains kept the crowds small, which led some vendors to complain about the lost business. Brian and Livvy Holbrook, in their fifth year operating the Brian's Hot Dog stand at the Festival, noticed a drop off in business. Brian explained that business was "fine to start with, and was still good despite the rain" before Livvy added  that "last year was much busier."

That sentiment was shared by most vendors on the upper quad on Saturday. Tracy Humberson, of Jearbryo's Hooker's Seafood and Grill of Oakland, also complained that business was better for the 2012 Festival. Humberson, in her fourth year working the event, confessed that the weather had definitely hurt their business, but that, despite the soggy conditions, "everyone is still very happy." The message was the same from owner Patty Alexander at the Popcorn in Paradise tent, where business was brisk thanks to return sales, but not up to last year's turnout, which Alexander claimed was "off the hook."

One exception to the decline was new vendor B&B Country Meats of Frostburg, where owner Ryan Garlitz and his wife maintained a brisk business throughout the day. "People have been great," Garlitz said, "business has been great."

For the craft vendors, the heaviest rains provided a mixed blessing. While people sought cover under the large vendor tents and made purchases during the storm, the weather basically put an end to new arrivals for the afternoon, leaving most vendors to pack up by 3:00pm. That did lead to some deals for shoppers, however, as Sue Ferry of Latrobe managed to pick up a pair of woven handbags while waiting out the storm. "I knew I was going to buy something today," Ferry said, relaxing after a long day at the Festival.

"It's a beautiful campus, I can't wait to come back next year," Ferry continued. Festival organizers have to hope that other visitors feel the same way. 

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