Second Annual Makers Festival Reaches New Level in Manahawkin

Six Thousand Shop Wares of 143 Artisans
By VICTORIA FORD | Sep 20, 2016
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

This was Makers Fest at Manahawkin Lake Park on Saturday, in a few words everyone keeps using: Magic. A dream. Love.

Hammocks swinging lazily in the trees. Teepee tents, erected and furnished with blankets and seating for anyone looking to steal away for some reflection. Beautiful music wafting on gentle breezes, setting the mood for art appreciation. Shiny, happy people chilling on hay bales near the stage or spinning gaily in the grass. Glass jars full of flowers hanging from trees. Girls walking around with flowers in their hair. Kites. Yoga. Blacksmithing. Tradition. Artistic expression. Craftsmanship. Sustainability.

By the numbers, a reported 143 makers, 51 volunteers, eight eateries, eight bands, seven hands-on activities, four breweries and one farm made it happen. Approximately 6,000 visitors made it all worthwhile. The ocean was spared hundreds of disposable plastic bottles, thanks to Alliance for a Living Ocean’s water station. The day after, organizers were “swimming in all of the positive reinforcement” and already looking eagerly ahead to next year’s festival, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.

Before the event opened to the public, words of preparation and motivation were shared by organizing body The MakeShift Union – the trio of Erin Buterick, Jeannine Errico and Dani Corso, in conjunction with the creative team of Dawn Simon, Jessie Temple and Brie Fagan.

The morning vendor load-in, which began before the sun came up, had run smoothly, “due in large part to the incredibly helpful public works guys and volunteers,” according to Buterick.

In marketing the event via social media, Corso said, the Facebook event page had reached 57,000 people and the business page had reached 22,000 more.

The day ahead, a whole far greater than the sum of its parts, held nothing but promise.

And it delivered.

Year Two seemed to have a more relaxed feel overall, even with triple the vendors and double the attendance.

“I loved every second, even the stressful seconds,” Buterick said. By 6 p.m., even though she was exhausted, she didn’t want the day to end.

Much of the 14-hour day is still a blur in her memory, but she takes from it images that made her happy: the long line for the flower crowns; people dancing; dozens of puppies; picture-perfect weather; full hammocks; sunburn and sore feet; a cat on a leash.

For Joanne Dozor of Firefly Gallery, a self-described flower child of the 1960s, the festival was a momentous occasion: her first time ever displaying and selling her own artwork.

“Because of the support of this very inclusive and encouraging community, I was able to break through my personal fears of doing this,” she said, summing up the festival’s very essence. She said she got great feedback, sold one painting, and sold out of the mermaid T-shirts and a dozen mermaid tanks. In all, she said, her take on it was “a wonderful event, thoughtfully planned,” with a special fondness for the hairpieces and tents.

Cheryl Syminink of C Glass Studio had a prime spot for her booth, with good visibility and a view of the stage. Though she wished she had more time for her own shopping, “it was great to see people crowding the walkways, drinks in hand, shopping their favorite booths.”

“The layout this year was very different from last year’s, but awesome,” she added. “Having multiple entrances and many different areas to vend made it seem busier than last year.”

Simon, of Swing Graphics and Dawn Frances Simon, was also thrilled with the logistics and geography of the new location – the spacious, creative, twisty-turny layout at the park, the beautiful lake view, the much-needed shade of the trees. She believes the exposure along Route 9 made a huge difference in turnout. The stage the township lent to the event was an amazing way to showcase the musical talent.

Sahara Moon was one of the first entertainers on that stage, as she and her 11-year-old sister played a 45-minute set as part of the original music lineup. “The event was absolutely beautiful in every single way. The atmosphere was so energizing, and the amount of support was surreal throughout the entire day. It was such a genuine, green, and peaceful way to bring all of the local communities together.”

Simon added she was enamored with, among many things, the amazing tacos from Sunny Rae’s food truck. “I had the Taco Trio – a fish taco, a sweet potato taco and a pork belly taco that I gave to my boyfriend/partner (Peter Sullivan), since I don’t eat meat. They were so fresh and full of flavor, definitely made with love and soul.”

Her general impression, she said, was that great vibes of love and community filled the air. She felt proud to be a local, and even more proud to be a maker.

Corso, still in a festival-induced stupor, was overwhelmed by the community support that made it feel so alive.

“At the end of the festival, all I wanted was for time to stop, so we could spend just a few moments more in the space we all created together,” she said.

She will never forget the moment she walked by photographer Jesse Tomasello’s tent and heard a young boy say, “Art is your own reality.”

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