Sugarloaf Artisans Provide a Sense of Community to Diverse Audiences
Sometime in the early 1990's the number of "ideal" craft festival attendees peaked in the U.S. Nevertheless, attendance and sales continued to grow at art and craft fairs throughout the nation. Something was happening beyond the mere purchase of items for the home.
About that time Sugarloaf began surveying attendees as to what they liked most about each show. After thousands of interviews it became apparent that besides the quality and value they found at each show, it was the personal interaction with the artists that kept them coming back year after year.
Upon further reflection, it became clear that a very basic sociological trend was developing, fueled by the rapid rate of change and the technology revolution. Gone were the community villages of yesteryear when everyone knew everyone else and a stranger could be detected at first glance. Indeed, memories of the corner candy store and evening strolls down Main Street live mainly in the minds of a town's oldest residents.
Today, the faces of a community are constantly changing. People come and go, families are dispersed, businesses are built up, bought out and moved with unsettling frequency. Day by day, all things familiar change until there is little left of the community that once was "home".
Adding to these unsettling changes is the effect high technology has on human interaction. In our "High Tech" world, human contact with individuals you know has been largely eliminated. You get your cash from ATM machines, swipe your credit card at the gas pump and aren't even recognized by the waiters at restaurants you frequent in town since they change help every week. At the grocery store you have been reduced to a "Club Member" with only a number. Even when you call a friend or business you now get voice mail instead of a real person.
Neighbors are people you wave to on your way to work and family is seen on Holidays if at all. Many people labor at "work stations" in sterile cubicles facing a computer screen without personality. Our sense of community and belonging is rapidly deteriorating.
But, alas, there is hope. Even though technology changes the world at an ever-increasing pace, human nature remains the same. When deprived of the traditional sources of "community" people seek it out wherever they can find it. This takes many forms including joining organizations, groups linked together by common interests on the Internet, attendance at Trade Shows, and, of course, craft festivals.
We see this first hand each year as hundreds of thousands of patrons come to Sugarloaf shows hungry for a "high touch" experience. Here they find real people presenting their unique creations. Items made from real materials like solid wood, supple leathers and earth elements used since the beginning of time. They find art in enough forms and styles to reach anyone's soul. More importantly they find you, the artist. Someone they know and who knows them. You are glad to see them again and eager to meet their friends. Questions about your work are easily answered and service is personal. It is the small town country store that's come to their town. The Sugarloaf Craft Festival is a place where people can "come home" and rediscover what it's like to be comfortable in their "community" for a while.
The irony of it all is that the artisans come to these towns from all over the U.S. for just three or four days at a time. They bring a sense of community to towns where they don't even live. Somehow in our crazy mixed up world this now makes sense.
Taken one step further, the artists themselves have formed a community at shows. At Sugarloaf shows there is a rich sense of "family" and "coming home" that we all feel. Many of the artist's best friends are other artists who live in other states. What's more, they probably see them more than they see their neighbors or even relatives who live nearby their home. They share good times, bad times, special occasions and a lifestyle that is the envy of all the patrons working "regular" jobs that they don't enjoy.
For all of the above reasons its clear that what people come to Sugarloaf Craft Festivals for is not so much the items in the booths, but the warm and lasting relationships they develop with the artists. This is why the artists develop so much repeat business and why the Sugarloaf Craft Festivals become more popular each year.