For a week, the Triangle’s air felt more smothering and dank than a kiss from a wet sheepdog, but it finally turned crisp on Sunday as hundreds crowded onto Franklin Street for the Festifall arts fair – an event that delivered the cool promise of autumn.
The 44th annual festival closed Chapel Hill’s main drag to make way for pedestrians, belly dancers and soul bands, reviving the October tradition that heavy rains canceled last year.
“We wanted to be here last year, but there was a hurricane,” said Caleb Hawley from the main stage as his band led off the day’s lineup. “What are you eating?” he asked a girl in the audience. “You’ve got a mouthful of something. Tuna fish. Tuna fish at 12:05 ...”
Up and down the booths, vendors offered bamboo charcoal face soap, Flat River mint tea, wine-cork jewelry holders and Christmas ornaments fashioned out of comic book pages.
Morrisville painter Dan Campbell showed off his modern-art interpretation of a Michael Jordan jump shot. Charlotte artist Jim “Goose” Goodwin displayed his collection of North Carolina ships in bottles, including the Crissie Wright, which foundered on Shackleford Banks in 1886, freezing and drowning its crew.
Kids made clay bowls and snakes at an Arts Center pottery table. More kids made get-well cards for patients in UNC Children’s Hospital. The Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department invited passers-by to take photos and share them online.
At one table, the Poetry Fox, a man clad in a fox suit, banged out poetry on a manual typewriter, basing each of his works on a single word submitted by a festival-goer. To the small girl wearing glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs, who offered him the word “fox,” he wrote: “I am a fox, so I live underground, and I dig into the Earth where it’s cool all year.”
This seemed to suit.
In the space of a block, festival attendees got encouraged to recycle, handed booklets on Bhakti yoga and asked by three different volunteers if they had registered to vote. It is unlikely that any acre in the Triangle contained more artisan jewelry.
“How about that Carolina blue sky?” asked Aaron Keck, anchor with radio station WCHL, up on the festival stage.
A year ago, the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin closed the streets of Chapel Hill to the festive. But on Sunday, after a year of pent-up arts and crafts longing, autumn-lovers got the launch they’d been starving for.