By Louis Mayeux

The Chastain Park Arts Festival enjoyed a successful debut Oct. 17-18, organizers and community supporters said.

“We were very happy with the event,” said Patrick Dennis of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces, the festival organizer. “We had a broad base of participating artists and lots of community support.”

The event benefited the John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve in Sandy Springs. Proceeds will help add bathrooms and a shelter and improve the entrance at the 30-acre park.

Chastain Park Civic Association President Jim King said of the arts festival, “I thought it was a great success. Every neighbor I talked to thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been receiving e-mails raving about it.”

After a cold and rainy Saturday, sunny skies and pleasantly cool weather prevailed for Sunday, boosting activity at the park. “It was beautiful that day: you had baseball, softball, the arts festival, tennis, you had it all going on,” King said. “It all worked very well.”

King said that the arts festival, held along Park Drive, showed the validity of the association’s goal to limit the road to pedestrians. Cars, bicycles and walkers are normally allowed on the road.

The juried Chastain arts festival featured from 130 to 150 artists selling paintings, sculpture, woodwork, jewelry, photography, posters and metalwork.

King was particularly happy at the Arts Festival’s success after what he viewed as opposition from the Chastain Park Conservancy. “It was disappointing that prior to the event, the Chastain Park Conservancy was not very helpful in allowing this to take place.”

Ray Mock, director of operations for the Chastain Park Conservancy, said it is “not true” that the conservancy opposed the festival. “I signed their permit, so I don’t see why he thought I opposed it. It being a first-time event, we couldn’t tell what to expect, and wanted to make sure everything was thought of in advance. I think they did make an effort. We were just being diligent in our duty in protecting the park, to make sure everything was accounted for, the right number of bathrooms, and the right number of emergency personnel, and apparently it was. It was all very legitimate.”

Asked if he would support the event next year, Mock said, “I don’t see why not.”

With parking in the Chastain Amphitheater’s blue and red lots, the event caused minimum impact on residential neighborhoods, Dennis said. “It has a very low carbon footprint – it did not require us to close any streets in the area. … It was a very quiet festival – no loud bands and not a lot of vehicles. …There was no mischief, and no debris, and there was nothing left behind. Everything was clean and neat and the park was better than it was.”

The inaugural Chastain event was held on the same weekend as the Brookhaven Arts Festival. Randall Fox, co-founder of the Foundation for Public Spaces and executive director of the Big Trees Forest, said he saw the Chastain festival as a “complement” to the 6-year-old Brookhaven event, which has been held annually on the third weekend in October. “We’re not taking away from them.”

But Gretchen Roberts, executive director of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance, said “I was disappointed to hear it was on the same weekend. We’re too close to each other to be having it on the same weekend.”

Roberts said the Chastain event forced artists to choose between the two. If the Chastain event were held on a different weekend, the artists would have another opportunity to market their work. She also said the Chastain event reduced the number of artists at the Brookhaven festival by around 15 from the usual 130 and held down her attendance.