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Virginia Fall Foliage Festival turns 50: Autumn festival this weekend

fall foliage art show
Photo courtesy Shenandoah Valley Art Center.

For the first time in two years, the River City’s downtown welcomes back an annual, can’t-miss tradition while celebrating a milestone.

The 50th anniversary of the Fall Foliage Art Show returns to Waynesboro on Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Entry is free.

2021 was supposed to host the 51st edition, but the show had to be canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting the half-century celebration mark to this year.

This weekend, Main Street and Wayne Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic and jam-packed with artist booths that showcase handcrafted, unique work by talented and ambitious artists. It’s more important than ever, at this moment, to support these artists.

“The festival will feel largely the same as previous years. All art festivals seem to be still feeling the impact of COVID,” said Piper Groves, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Art Center and the director of the show. “Many artists are not yet comfortable exhibiting among crowds even in an outdoor setting. I would guess it will be two or three more years before these kinds of events fully recover. We have slightly fewer artists and there will be some additional empty space scattered around the show to help with social distancing. We also have extra hand washing stations and sanitizer stands placed around the venue. Staff and volunteers will be wearing masks as well. In some ways this is the most important time to come out to support these independent artists. Many of these folks do this for a living and are still devastated from the loss of income over the past year and a half.”

The family-friendly event respectfully asks that pets be left at home.

For children, there will be a kid’s craft area near the P. Buckley Moss Museum on Main Street, and in addition there will be sidewalk chalk for everyone.

There will also be live music, craft beer and food trucks. Musical acts include David Young, Old Hat, Jon Spear Band and Hayes Branch.

“It’s an honor to produce the art show each year. Shenandoah Valley Art Center is here to make art accessible for everyone, and to help artists,” Groves said. “The Fall Foliage Art Show is really our mission summed up in one weekend. We’re able to bring world-class artwork to Waynesboro, and to help our patrons learn about art and grow their own collections while supporting independent working artists. Over the years this show has grown into a cornerstone of the autumn experience in the Valley. The most gratifying part is when we’re on the streets in the crowd watching the artists share their work, friends and family meeting up, and enjoying the views of the Blue Ridge in the distance. The show is 50 years old, and I’ve been planning it for 14 years, and every year it’s still magical when it all comes together.”

All parking is free for all visitors, and there may also be street parking around the perimeter of the show.

“This event is vital to our community’s growth and prosperity as it attracts around 20,000 people into our city over a two-day period,” Waynesboro Mayor Bobby Henderson said. “COVID was tough on our small businesses and this event will help stimulate their businesses, while at the same time show the world Waynesboro, Virginia survived COVID, and we are open for business, leisure, and the arts.”

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Story by Roger Gonzalez