The streets in Dahlonega were filled on Saturday, May 18, as people came from all over to enjoy handcrafted art, live jazz and local wine at the Dahlonega Arts & Wine Festival.
The fourth-annual event got off to its best start to date as visitors strolled through tents to look at nearly 70 different artists, stopped at the pavilion to listen to a little jazz or hung around the wine garden tent, getting sips of wine from their favorite local wineries.
“Saturday is always our biggest day, but we figure this is our biggest festival so far by the look of all the people coming,” said Letty Rayneri, festival director, as she stood in the shade of Hancock Park. “So we’re really happy about that.”
She said the festival has three main goals: promote visual art, raise money for art education and bring economic development to Dahlonega.
But the biggest goat of the three is promoting the artists.
“Dahlonega is known for music,” Rayneri said. “What we’re trying to do is have it known for visual arts, too.”
Ralph Beasley and Cathy Blodgett were visiting from Atlanta and going through each tent selling arts and crafts. They don’t make it to Dahlonega often, so they made a weekend out of the trip and were staying at an inn nearby.
“She saw Dahlonega was having a jazz and wine festival and we love this type of thing,” Beasley said, pointing to Blodgett. “So we decided to do this together and enjoy the day.”
They were enjoying all the art as they made it up and down the tent-filled side streets, but were excited for the jazz shows to get started.
Ann Hall has lived in Dahlonega for a little more than 10 years and tries to get out to local festivals as much as she can. She doesn't like some of the larger events that come to Dahlonega because she said it feels too crowded, but she’s been to the Dahlonega Arts & Wine Festival each year and has enjoyed it every time.
“You know that what you’re getting in these booths is of a high quality,” Hall said. “It’s one of a kind.”
In the pink, flower-patterned bag on her shoulder, Hall had a few gifts for family. She already was planning for Christmas. She also was searching for pieces to add to her own personal collection.
“I bought a piece of glass with shells around it,” Hall said. “I collect folk art, so I look for unusual things.”
While she was looking through the Refined Forest booth, that’s exactly what she saw.
Renea Foster has considered herself an artist since she was young, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she began taking pieces of reclaimed wood and burning designs into the wood.
“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved art,” Foster said. “This was just kind of a new medium for me to try, just to do something different.”
She doesn't use stamps or stencils — everything is freehand — so each piece is different, even if it’s the same design. To make her pieces even more unique, Foster paints each one, which her husband, James, said isn’t typical with wood burning.
“She goes into something that hardly any other pyographer does by adding the paint to her stuff,” James Foster said. “It’s usually just the burning.”
The Fosters are from Morganton, Georgia, about an hour north of Dahlonega, but Magan Bartlett and her father, Mike Fromhold, traveled even further. They were in town from Cullman, Alabama, for a wedding, but decided to stop by the wine garden near where the jazz music was going to be playing.
“I want to be a wine person, but I’m not,” Bartlett said, laughing.
Her father shared in that trait.
“I used to want to be a wine person,” Fromhold said. “But I just never developed the taste. I developed a taste for beer and whiskey, so something’s got to lose, I guess.”
That didn’t stop them from getting their samples of local North Georgia wineries, though. And as they sipped that wine, a jazz band was getting ready to play nearby, drawing more and more people to the festival.
“This is a really nice festival and was really well put together,” Fromhold said.