March 18 – 20, 2022 | Downtown Fairhope, AL | Website
On the Thursday evening of the Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival, artists, makers and craftspeople will roll into Baldwin County from almost 30 states. They will unpack their wares and display them proudly in tents that billow in the breeze off the nearby Bay. Preparing for the arrival of eager shoppers may take them well into the evening, but the artists will be rewarded come Friday morning when the shoppers show up, eager to peruse the selection of juried work that is known as one of the best festivals in the nation. The annual fair is back after two years of COVID disruption, and this year’s iteration — the 70th anniversary — is one you don’t want to miss.
Itineraries for every personality
For the serious art collector
Download and print a map before the festival and highlight all the booths that sell the type of art you might buy. Arrive when the fair opens Friday morning at 10 a.m., snag a spot in the city garage and head out to see all the offerings before the best stuff gets sold. Make sure you walk past every booth before breaking for a quick lunch at the food courts, then circle back and finish your purchases. By midafternoon, you deserve a break … and a cocktail. Stash your art in your car and head to Master Joe’s where you can get a seat in the window and watch fairgoers pass by, cold sake in hand. Then come back Sunday to see if any artists want to make a deal on unsold works before they pack up and go home.
For the casual shopper
Friday is the best shopping day, with kids still in school and lighter crowds. Grab a group of friends and park at one of the local churches where your donation will go to a good cause. Peruse the tents and make plans to meet up at a lemonade stand to refresh and see what treasures everyone is taking home. Put on your broad-brimmed hat, as it’s often the first really warm and sunny weekend of the year and festivalgoers are often caught unawares. A sit-down lunch at one of the local cafes will give your feet a break before you take one more lap around town to shop. Late afternoon wine spritzes at Provision are the perfect end to a day
For the family outing
Bring the double stroller so the kids can rest after a few hours of walking and so you have more room to store your swag! Check out the kids’ art tent for free activities and meet all the puppies available for adoption at the Haven’s booth. The firefighters will give the little ones a free red fire hat and let them touch all the switches on the big shiny truck while you duck into Greer’s for some fruit and waters for the fam. Lunch in the food court is a must, followed by ice cream from the old tractor-powered churn. If you don’t come home with a bag of kettle corn, a wooden popgun and a sunburn, you didn’t have a good time. A to-go pizza from one of the Downtown restaurants will make dinner for your tired bunch that much easier.
For snackers and grazers
Come any day and wander the streets, letting the crowds guide you. Every block offers something to snack on, which we highly recommend. The smell of candied pecans will lure you to Section Street, while fruity Popsicles call from the end of Fairhope Avenue. If you look closely, Punta Clara Candy Kitchen usually has a booth near the center of the festival, and the kettle corn is not to be missed. For lunch, we recommend the BBQ in the food court, which is made by a family operation that hasn’t missed a festival in years.
LIVE AT FIVE: Sister Hazel
The Live at Five Concert Series showcases national and regional acts in the open-air Halstead Amphitheater on the campus of Coastal Alabama Community College in downtown Fairhope. The 2022 season kicks off on Friday, March 18, in conjunction with the Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival, with music by Sister Hazel. Get your tickets for a family-friendly night of music on the lawn in downtown Fairhope!
Friday, March 18, 2022 • 5 – 9 p.m. • $20 per ticket
Looking back on Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival
In 1953, Fairhope wanted to capitalize on the tourism surrounding Mardi Gras and hoped to lure people across the Bay during the day for shopping and dining. For a waterfront town known as an artists’ haven, an art fair was a natural fit. From February 22 to 28, about a dozen local artists hung their work in the windows of Downtown stores and businesses to attract shoppers and tourists who would enjoy a stroll in the spring weather, and the first Arts & Crafts Festival was born.
By 1965, the tour included exhibitors and activities from the cities of Spanish Fort and Daphne. The week’s opening ceremonies were held in Spanish Fort and ended with a dramatic play performed in Fairhope. That year, the Chamber reported 4,150 visitors and 52 featured artists.
Over the years, the festival expanded and evolved, adding layers of interest for tourists and locals alike. About six years ago, organizers created the Arts & Crafts Festival Foundation, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that would take on the responsibility of producing the fair. The proceeds from the festival all go back into Fairhope and Eastern Shore communities through scholarships and grants to individuals and organizations that support the arts.
Today, the Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival is a prestigious juried show that accepts more than 200 artists from across the nation and presents 22 cash awards. Sunshine Artist Magazine, a niche publication focusing on crafts shows, consistently ranks the Fairhope event as one of the top in the nation. It is one of the oldest festivals in the country, according to Sunshine’s records, and is known in the industry for being “hard to get into.”
The locals know how to do it right
Before you hit the sunny streets and head into the crowds, form a game plan. Locals who do the fair every year show us how it’s done.
Where to Park
There are a few public parking lots and garages in the heart of Downtown that fill up quickly. If you are an early bird, it’s worth a lap to see what’s available. Many locals just park on the side of the road throughout the neighborhoods surrounding Downtown. (Be sure not to block any driveways and respect homeowners’ property.) To the south of town, St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Fairhope First Baptist Church offer free parking, and Fairhope United Methodist Church collects parking donations to fund mission trips. On the weekend, the elementary school just north of downtown has free parking as well.
If all else fails, head to Highway 98 and park in the Big Lots parking lot where you can grab a shuttle that will drop you right at the festival door.
Get a Map
At the main intersection Downtown (Fairhope Avenue and Section Street) stands the information kiosk. There, you can pick up a festival map and get all your questions answered. It’s also a great meeting point if you become separated from your group (the ice cream stand is another favorite meeting point). Fairhope Police are all over the festival to answer questions or assist.
Where to Eat
All the fantastic restaurants, cafes and snack shops in downtown Fairhope will be open for business, many with special menus for the weekend. The festival food court on Magnolia Avenue, however, is a must-do. It features everything from chicken-on-a-stick to homemade ice cream, Greek food, burgers and BBQ. A few picnic tables are scattered around, so send someone from your party to snag a seat while you order food. When all else fails, cop-a-squat on the curb or take your kettle corn for a lap around some more artists’ booths.
Only service animals are allowed. The crowds would make it unsafe for nervous pets and people.
A free bike valet is located by the entrance at Bancroft St. and Fairhope Avenue for locals who want to skip the traffic. It’s guaranteed to be the quickest way in and out for nearby residents. Bikes, however, are not allowed within the fair, and if you buy that oversized painting, you better make other arrangements.
Don’t-miss for Kids
The kids’ tent with free art activities is always popular, as is the Fairhope fire truck, ready for kids to see up close and personal. The local animal shelter always brings a collection of pups in need of love that fairgoers say is hard to pass up!
Every few years, as trends change, a new must-have item comes to the fair. These days, the line to get a custom-painted Easter pail is quick to form, and the lady who remakes chenille throws is always a hit. Oversized metal flowers and handmade wooden toys are ever-popular.