Colorful balloons float high above vendors around Cary Town Hall as the town crier stands front and center, welcoming everyone to Cary’s long-running Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival.
The image serves as the signature poster for the event and was painted by Cary artist Sarah Sheffield, who has seen the festival evolve every year since she moved to the area in the late 1970s. She took notice of the event first as an artist, then later as town’s first cultural arts supervisor.
But this year, Sheffield, 66, will experience the nationally recognized festival in a new way – as the Lazy Daze featured artist – helping celebrate the event’s 40th year.
Sheffield depicted the venue change, along with the festival’s overall sense of community and fun in the poster.
“We wanted obviously a lot of festivity, happiness, and so bright colors, light and blooms all contribute to that,” Sheffield said.
Not only does her painting grace materials promoting the festival, but an adaptation of the image appears on nearly 2 million Diet Pepsi cans circulating in North Carolina.
“I think it’s great that she was able to focus in on the town crier, which we’ve never done before,” said Lyman Collins, the town’s cultural arts manager. “She also, I think very successfully, captured the spirit of fun and excitement that Lazy Daze is.”
An artist’s touch
Although Sheffield, a Detroit native, began her career in social services, art always was in her blood. Her grandfather was an architect, her mother was an art teacher, and her father was an industrial designer.
“It suits my personality in creating my own vision and telling a story,” she said. “It keeps my head up looking at the world and has really opened up the way I see things.”
It didn’t take long for Sheffield to realize that art was her true passion. She left social services to start her own graphic arts business, Finger Prints Studio, in Cary in 1977.
She also began teaching part time in community facilities until the City of Raleigh hired her as a permanent arts instructor with its parks and recreation department. She eventually became Cary’s first cultural arts supervisor, where she coordinated staff, programs, concerts and exhibits for two public art centers.
Sheffield served in this role for about five years before retiring and devoting her full attention to painting. She draws inspiration for her work from Cary, as well as other places she’s traveled or lived, such as Ohio, Virginia and California.
“I think what kind of runs through my work, especially the older I get, is sort of a sense of nostalgia and reminiscence,” she said.
But Sheffield said it was her past experience working for the town and her connection to downtown Cary that encouraged her to create the poster for Lazy Daze’s 40th anniversary.
“It was really exciting when I got the call,” she said. “I was really taken aback and honored, and a little bit overwhelmed, to tell you the truth. It felt like it was such a good match between my knowledge of the festival and what they would want that I said, ‘Yes.’”
40 years and counting
The festival, a decades-old tradition that began with about 100 vendors on East Chatham Street between Academy and Walker streets, has since grown by hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors.
One of the festival’s additions over the years is Town Crier John Webster and his wife, Mary. The Websters are from Markham, Ontario, Canada – one of Cary’s four sister cities – and have been attending Lazy Daze since 2004.
They are pictured on this year’s poster, fully dressed in Town Crier regalia, welcoming everyone with the ringing of a bell. Every year, John Webster makes announcements, greets visitors and kicks off the festival.
In addition to new faces, Sheffield said she also has seen Lazy Daze grow in terms of professionalism, and in response, its reputation has improved.
“(Town staff) are very, very careful to make sure things were really not manufactured crafts but really hand done by the artisans,” she said. “I think they’ve balanced out the categories of crafts over the years so that it wasn’t an overabundance of one type of craft.”
But Sheffield said one thing hasn’t changed. Laze Daze is still a welcoming community event where residents can see artisans and friends they know from in and around Cary.
“There’s something for everybody,” she said.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Want to go?
What: Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, and 12:30-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28
Where: Cary Town Hall Campus near 316 N. Academy St., Cary
Information: townofcary.org. Search “Lazy Daze.”