By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The Black Swamp Arts Festival received an early gift as preparations get underway for the 25th festival next September.
The readers of Ohio Magazine have voted the Bowling Green festival as Best Art/Fair Festival in the state of Ohio. The results of the readers poll appear in the January issue of the magazine.
“It’s great that it’s a reader appreciation award, a community-based reaction, to what we’ve done,” said Todd Ahrens, who chairs the committee that works year-round to stage the festival. “It’s good for the committee to have validation that the work we do as volunteers has meaning to the community. Bringing arts and the community together – that’s what the festival has been about since the beginning.”
The 2017 festival will be staged in downtown Bowling Green Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 10.
The festival features musicians from around the world, more than 200 exhibitors in three art shows, arts activities for children, and a range of food and beverage offerings.
That diversity of offerings is what sets the festival apart, Ahrens said. “We offer visual and performing arts… and then have this youth arts area that blows people away.”
The Chalk Walk competition for high school students was started as a way to engage teenagers. “We continue to find ways to make it something for everybody,” he said.
The festival also features a beer garden and a variety of food vendors. “People enjoy the beer garden in particular and being able to enjoy free music with their friends and have a nice community party.”
Looking forward to next September, Ahrens said: “I don’t know that there’s this big thing happening for 25th, but there will be a lot of fun things through merchandise and special performances.”
Through its future of the festival committee, organizers are looking toward securing the event’s future for the next 25 years. The committee has quietly launched a drive to set up an endowment with a goal of raising $25,000 in its 25th year. The endowment is through the Bowling Green Community Foundation.
The endowment campaign builds on its tradition of relying on a broad base of community donors. “Part of what’s great about the festival is it’s all volunteer,” he said. “People really get involved. We have 800 to 1,000 volunteers a year that help put on the festival. It takes a community effort.”
This is not the first time the festival has been honored by the magazine. The festival was voted into the top spot in 2014.
The juried art show has also been regularly listed as one of the top art shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine. This year the juried exhibit ranked 70th on the Top 100 Classic and Contemporary Show.
The Black Swamp Arts Festival has grown steadily since it was first presented in 1993. With the help of several downtown businesses, it weathered its inaugural year when it was almost washed away in a deluge. Now it attracts Grammy winners and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees to its stages as well as top regional artists and crafters. It draws an estimated 60,000 visitors to downtown Bowling Green each year.
A couple other area spots also found favor with Ohio Magazine readers: the Toledo Museum of Art as Best Museum and the Hollywood Casino in Toledo near downtown Rossford, as best casino.