Crowds pack festival


Record attendance was the subject of the day at the 2022 Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green.

“The crowds were amazing. Such great energy and a good vibe. Lovely community, as it is every year. To be honest, it’s been just a lovely time and community, as it is every year. Honest to goodness,” Devonte Stovall, musician with Freight Street, said. “We’ve had a lot going on, with the pandemic and this is just a breath of fresh air.”

Favorable weather and the expanded boundaries for beer sales were generally agreed by the members of the site and logistics to be a major factor in attendance.

“The weather was really great last night and today. Crowds have been big,” Jamie Sands, past festival chair, said Saturday evening.

She was surveying the crowds with Dave Shaffer, who has been with festival’s site and logistics committee for several years.

“We have estimated our crowds, five or six years ago, at about 50,000 people. That’s a pretty reasonable estimation. We’re not over-exaggerating. We’ve gone up from there,” Shaffer, said on Saturday evening. “People are so willing to get out after COVID. There is such a pent-up demand to be with each other. 60,000? 70,000? Who knows it’s going to be tonight. It’s going to be huge.”

“(Boundaries) are bigger than they have ever been, by about 50%,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer has monitored attendance by way of beer tent sales for many years, noting that sales and consumption were once limited to a small fenced-off section of the parking lot opposite the main stage. Today, the boundaries roughly cover the entire parking block between Main and South Prospect streets and Washington and Wooster streets.

Contributing to the additional crowds were the expansion of art vendor sales, which happened last year and the growing alcohol sales boundaries.

“I saw a lot of people out looking at the art,” Wally Fraker said. He is a woodworker that enjoys looking at the artist booths.

Bryant and Sharon Tubbs, 2022 Best of Show winners of the juried art show, exhibited at the BSAF for the first time this year and were impressed by the attention volunteers gave to the behind-the-scenes factors.

They are metal sculptors with art that they says falls in the heavy-category, but it was easier for them to get set up at the BSAF than is has been at other festivals.

Those increases in the crowds have also been felt on the music end of the festival.

“Things are going very smoothly. We have done this a lot of times. We have a really good crew that keeps coming back, and knows what to do,” said Tim Concannon, performing arts co-chair. “The bands have been on time, cooperative and happy. There’s also a great hospitality tent, which really helps make them feel happy and at home.”

He agreed that crowds were bigger than usual.

“The crowds have been awesome. People were out and having a good time. The weather was cooperating. We thought we might be getting some rain at the beginning of the week, but now the forecast has changed to mostly clear skies and the shows have been perfect,” Concannon said.

Vera Stormer has been working the musician merchandise sales tent for many years.

“This year is better than last year, but we’re not at pre-pandemic levels yet,” Stormer said.

She said that merchandise sales are very important for the musicians, because many depend on it for gas and food, while on the road.

“In fact, musician Angela Howell said ‘Thank you so much, this is gas money home!’” Stormer said.

“I think we are not selling as much because gas and food prices are up for everyone,” she said. “But still, it a good turnout. Big, big turnout this year. I think it’s the weather and more people feel comfortable being out in public again. They’re being around other humans and just getting out of the house.”

BSAF Winners

A story detailing the Best of Show can be found on Page 3.

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