If you go
What: Flowertown FestivalWhen: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. SundayWhere: Main Street and Azalea Park, SummervillePrice: Free For more info: www.flowertownfestival.org
The Duct Tape Dude, the Cookie Chick and the puppet farmer are part of what gives the vaunted Flowertown Festival in Summerville its hometown ambience.
By the numbers
Weave your way through:180 arts and crafts booths150 business booths26 food vendors, including 14 restaurants and a Coca-Cola tent
These booth crafters are do-it-yourself entrepreneurs. Two of them just launched their businesses. Heck, one of them is 12.
“Yeah, that’s just cool,” Greyson Taylor, the Duct Tape Dude, said about being the youngest vendor in Azalea Park, in the town where the Lexington resident was born.
The 40-year-old annual arts and crafts street festival takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday in and around Azalea Park. No small part of its charm is that homey appeal. But the fest has taken on a life of its own, growing from a modest azalea and arts showcase to a regional destination event that draws an estimated 200,000 people a year.
The festival had become so big by 2000 that the Sumerville Family YMCA organizers put limits on business booths in an attempt to preserve the artisan nature.
But today, almost as many businesses set up vendor booths as crafters. The festival has become business, a fundraiser said to bring in about $100,000 to the YMCA as well as $30 million to the local economy.
The $350 booth rental fee means a lot of crafts must sell — and that can daunt folksier, more offbeat artisans. But the size of the crowd lures plenty of them year-to-year.
The arts and crafts booths tend to run the gamut from tried-and-true vendors to do-it-yourselfers.
There’s established veterans like Kerry Dortch of the Puppet Farm, who returns with his barn full of furry animal puppets and puts on impromptu puppet shows for prospective buyers. He works by hand with an electric knife and sewing machine, but the Georgia resident knows the drill — he’s been at it 27 years.
There’s a hopeful crowd pleaser. Faith Keppler of Mount Pleasant will have a booth not even a year to date after launching The Cookie Chick. She’s already popular at the town’s farmers market and is bringing mouthwatering cookie flavors like chocolate chip and sea salt, coffee coconut and oatmeal, lemon lime sugar and a few more.
Asked if they’re good, she doesn’t launch into a sales pitch.
“Oooooo,” she said with her voice rising. “They’re fantastic.”
Then there’s the Duct Tape Dude. Greyson makes wallets, purses and other items out of — yep, you guessed it — duct tape. He started this two years ago when he was 10 and sells items for only a few dollars each. He pays back his mom for the booth rental out of his earnings.
“It’s fun to make stuff. It’s cool when I make money,” he said.
But the Flowertown booth is a big-time business leap for him, and even Lisa Taylor, his mom, was leery when he suggested it.
Is he feeling the pressure?
“Kind of,” he conceded as he put together wallets last week. “I’ve got to sell a bunch.”
Shuttles to ease crowded street-side parking, walks
The free shuttles are back, and Summerville police credit them for relieving maybe the biggest concern with the Flowertown Festival: crowding streets.
Parking along the narrow historic district streets around Azalea Park in Summerville had jammed up so tightly by 2011 that ambulances and firetrucks wouldn’t have made it down some of them, and police and fire officials called for changes.
Festival organizers brought in remote parking and shuttles last year. It eased the jam, freeing up room for emergency vehicles. And riders found, after a day on their feet, that they preferred the shuttles to what could have been a long walk back to their cars.
For street-side parking, “We’re acting on the same plan as last year. It worked well,” said Summerville Police Capt. Jon Rogers. “We want to make sure roads stay clear, so if we have to get emergency equipment through there, we can, and we can do it efficiently.”
Noon-5 p.m. Friday; three 30-seat trolleys
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; two 44- to 50-seat buses
1-5 p.m. Sunday; one 30-seat trolley
Pickup and drop-off:
Heritage Square (Berlin G. Myers Parkway at U.S. Hwy. 78) to West Doty Avenue at Hutchinson Square and back.
The former Hoover Dodge parking lot (Trolley Road at Miles Jamison Road) to Joyce Street at South Main Street and back.
For those who park along the streets around the festival, the rules are:
Get the vehicle off the roadway but stay in the right-of-way off private property.
Don’t park where streets have been roped off or along no-parking areas such as intersections or hydrants.
Main Street traffic will be detoured around the festival using Magnolia and Gum streets as one-way routes north or south.
Magnolia and Gum streets will be barricaded to opposite-direction traffic and closed to parking.
Barricaded streets closed to festival parking include South Main, West Richland, Congress, Hampton, Rutherford, Charleston and other streets immediately adjacent to festival grounds.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.
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Thousands of people crowd the main drag of the Summerville Flowertown Festival.×
The Children Jubilee at Flowertown Festival is a popular place.×
In addition to the Taste offerings available at Flowertown Festival, a number of food vendors will be set up offering everything from kettle corn to turkey legs.×
Charleston Police Pipes and Drums perform last year.×
The Flowertown Festival attracts thousands of people to Main Street in Summerville.×