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Art Fair History: The Riot that almost Killed Allentown

Any of you participating in the Allentown Art Festival this weekend in Buffalo? It is a big sprawling event that has had its problems with crowd control -- it is THE big summer event. Back in the 1970's it had over 700 exhibitors (not artists-exhibitors, I'm sure you get the distinction). Today maybe 350? Still a big event.

Any of you remember the 1970's? They were wild times, lots of fun and exuberance. Did any of you participate in the show in those days?

Here is the story from the Buffalo News: The riot that transformed Allentown Art Festival.

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Comment by Pat Sorbini on June 11, 2010 at 8:54pm
I was too young to be an artist back then, but I was at the festival, right in the middle of the "riot". Until then Allentown was a sort of funky festival with all sorts of work and strolling musicians, etc. Then they clamped down on it and it became "respectable". It is a huge event here, sort of a ritual start to Summer and it draws a lot of people, if only to socialize. When I do the show my sales are good but not great. Too many booths and an annex (unjuried) show 2 blocks away. As to how the riot started, well, I was right there, innocently wondering what was happening when it blew up right in front of me. Let's just say the official story is not even close. But those were tense times and large throngs of hippie types were considered threatening. Lots of suspect work gets in this show but the committee is pretty good about responding to complaints and I have seen them surround a canopy with police tape to keep people away while the offender packs up right then and there. They have no waiting list and so there are always gaps which is not pleasant to look at. There are 450 participants, so maybe it's just too much for them. Anyway, I live in the neighborhood, so I'm going to go out and tie down my lawn chairs. :) Let the fun begin. I was juried out this year, so I will sit on my porch and watch the conveyor belt from the comfort of my lounge chair. Good luck to anyone doing the show.
Comment by Connie Mettler on June 11, 2010 at 9:11pm
It is hard to believe that in a show as large as this (450!!) that there wouldn't be room for a local who has done the show before....have fun, Pat!
Comment by Pat Sorbini on June 12, 2010 at 7:09pm
The show is 70% "art" and 30% "craft" which is further divided into hard and soft which always annoys me. As a book artist, I jury in with potters and wood turners, glass artists and metalsmiths, etc. Next year I'll apply as mixed media. I get into much better shows than A'town so it does annoy me. A nice paycheck this time of year is much appreciated, ya know?
Comment by lisa ark on June 15, 2010 at 12:03pm
Pats work is beautiful and made by her! I don't understand why she is not in the show, there was obvious buy/sell and lots of embellish items that looked like they were from the $ store. I
was down from last year(mixed media) but still had a decent show, a booth with cement turtles mosaic tops sold out on Saturday. This a real mixed crowd that attends this show, I don't think having a show of all fine art and crafts would be correct for Allentown, there are those customers looking for that low end item I just wish the show would make sure these booths do make their items gluing a bought cup on a stick, selling bags of stones or bending a a piece of metal and calling it a plant hanger is not art or a craft that belongs in a show such as Allentown. I would recommend this show, there is also many customers in search of good quality art...
Comment by Pat Sorbini on June 15, 2010 at 3:39pm
Well, there are 2 shows going on at the same time. Allentown and Allen West. Allen West is not juried and you see all sorts of things there, form really good stuff to B/S. I don't see stuff glued to a stick at the main show, to be fair, but yeah! my stuff is good. :) Thanks, Lisa. heh. I recommend the show, also. It is a mixed crowd for sure and if you plan accordingly, with variety so as to hit more of that mix, you should do well.
Comment by lisa ark on June 15, 2010 at 9:25pm
I was in the main show and the cup on the stick and rocks in a bag were right next to me!


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