DAHLONEGA — For fear of rainy weather, Letty Rayneri aggressively promoted the Dahlonega Arts & Wine Festival on Facebook, showing the vendors that were coming from near and far to display and sell their high-quality art.
“We thought we were going to get rained out,” said Rayneri, festival director. “But thank goodness the rain didn’t materialize like the predictions.”
The advertisements worked as hundreds turned out on the Dahlonega square on Saturday, May 19, to wander through the tents filled with paintings, pottery, woodwork and jewelry. The festival, in its third year, carefully selects each vendor. Rayneri said she wants it to be an event with the best artists who are professionals and not just “weekend people.”
“We just wanted a really high-class festival that was different and had a different flavor than other festivals in the area,” Rayneri said. “We just wanted to distinguish ourselves as the place to come for art, wine and jazz.”
Vendors came from Florida, Tennessee, South Georgia and locally. One of those was Byrd Mountain Pottery, owned by husband-and-wife team Mike Sherrer and Triny Cline who live just outside of Canton. They make pottery, including plates, platters, mugs and cups with a landscape-type of design by using multiple, overlapping glazes of different colors. It was their second year at the Dahlonega Arts & Wine Festival and they have plenty of experience at others.
They’ve been going to them since the 1990s.
“Our pottery is different because we have two distinct patterns,” Sherrer said. “If something happens, they look the same, so you can replace your favorite coffee cup if it breaks.”
Guests at the festival looked around at the items he had, asking questions and buying items pretty frequently. Lisa Johnston, a Gainesville resident attending for her first time, ended up getting quite a few mugs for her son’s school teachers at Covenant Christian Academy in Cumming.
“I just thought these were a great idea,” Johnston said. “It’s unique, it’s locally made and it’s a bit of the mountains for the teachers. Just a little something unique from North Georgia.”
Besides the art, one of the highlights of the festival was the wine garden. Guests paid $30 to taste wines from Montaluce Winery, Etowah Meadery, Kaya Vineyard & Winery, Habersham Vineyards & Winery and Three Sisters Vineyards.
The newest of the group is Etowah Meadery. which opened in November and has been making it to several festivals since. Owner Blair Housley said other wineries don’t really consider them competition since their products are made using different ingredients. Instead of grapes, Etowah Meadery uses honey in its product, called mead.
“We are a farm winery, we just don’t have a vineyard,” Housley said. “Our main supplier has over 2,000 hives in the state and we go through about 1,000 pounds of honey a month.”
Housley’s wife and co-owner Sharon said they use different fruits unique to the south, like pawpaw and mayhaw, to give meads different flavors.
James Williamson was sipping on a glass of mead as he was walking around the wine garden, listening to live jazz played nearby. It was his first time at the festival after moving to the area about a year ago.
He said he makes his own wine, so he enjoys trying others, too.
“It’s nice to kind of walk around and try them,” Williamson said. “I’m a cabernet guy myself. I like a little sweet wine. That’s what I make myself. I drink most of it and just give the rest away.”
As the festival grows, Rayneri said it will add more vendors, but not too many, and make sure to always have new items for visitors. She said as long as there is art, wine and jazz music, she doesn’t see how they can lose.
“We don’t want to get so huge like other festivals,” Rayneri said. “We want it to be a place where people feel comfortable coming and walking around so they can enjoy the whole scene.”