RALEIGH — Early estimates give downtown arts festival Artsplosure a record-setting turnout this year, with about 90,000 people crowding Moore Square and City Plaza Friday through Sunday to check out the music, art, shopping and sunny weather.
As the 32nd anniversary of the festival wound down late Sunday afternoon, the streets around Moore Square were still packed with people, Artsplosure program director Terri Dollar said.
“I like to think it’s a trend of people just finding downtown to be a really cool place to come to and hang out,” Dollar said.
Last year’s festival saw about 75,000 people, which is “really good,” Dollar said, but preliminary numbers place this year’s event as the top draw in the festival’s history.
While planners maintain the original vision of an interactive arts festival specializing in unique activities like live sand-sculpting or this year’s community weaving project, the event has evolved with the times, Dollar said. This year saw more alt-country bands like Sons of Bill and The Black Lillies booked for the free afternoon and evening concerts in Moore Square, for example, instead of just the jazz and blues that filled the stages in the past.
“Downtown is not just about the young, hip bar scene; it’s also about the families, the senior citizens, the walkers, drivers and bike riders, so we need something all of them can be interested in,” Dollar said.
Temperatures in the upper 70s combined with a clear blue sky may also have coaxed festival-goers to make the trip downtown.
“I would be having a whole different conversation with you if it had turned into a tornado or a hurricane or a torrential downpour,” Dollar said. “There would still be some diehards in the market with their umbrellas, shopping, but not nearly so many.”
Vendor sales figures won’t be in until early this week. When Dollar spoke to about three dozen vendors Sunday afternoon, all reported strong sales. “Raleigh is growing, what can we say,” Dollar said.