By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

This most certainly is the season for a lot of festivals. Perhaps it is the cooler fall weather, the color in the trees or maybe just the prelude to the winter holidays and gift buying and giving. Whatever it is, late summer and early fall is the festival time of the year.

Brookhaven is no exception to the rule.

On Sept. 18, the Brookhaven Arts Alliance put on the Taste of Brookhaven, an event featuring food from some of the area’s best restaurants. The event, which was held at the Conant Arts Center on the Oglethorpe University campus, drew a good crowd, even though the price tag of $40 per person was deemed a bit high by some folk.

Coming up Oct. 16 and 17, the same Brookhaven Arts Alliance holds its seventh annual Brookhaven Arts Festival, bringing 125 juried artists and their artworks to Apple Valley Road behind the Brookhaven MARTA rail station.

Something for everyone

Free to the public, the festival always offers a little of something for everyone—fine artwork, crafts, music, a kids area and food and beverage vendors. The festival’s principal sponsor this year is Brookhaven Bank.

Gretchen Roberts, executive director of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance, always works tirelessly to make these two events showcases for Brookhaven and to try and build a greater interest in the culinary and artistic treasures of the area. This year likely was more difficult than usual, since she had a regular paying fulltime job as well.

Last year, the Brookhaven Arts Festival was held on the same weekend as the Chastain Park Arts Festival, a first-time event in 2009 which was held at Chastain Park just a few miles from the Brookhaven Arts Festival’s site on Apple Valley Road.

I wrote a column on this page strongly suggesting that it was foolish for two organizations to compete so directly for artists and customers so short a distance from one another. This year, the Chastain Park Arts Festival organizers made sure their date did not conflict with the Brookhaven Arts Festival. The Chastain event was moved to Nov. 6 and 7.

Not being critical

I didn’t consider that I was being critical last year of the work done by Roberts for the Brookhaven Arts Festival nor by the promoters of the Chastain Park Arts Festival. I was simply trying to suggest it might be beneficial to both groups not to have conflicting events on the same dates.

I don’t want to seem like I am criticizing Roberts now, but I would like to offer a couple of suggestions that might improve both the Brookhaven Arts Festival and Taste of Brookhaven events in years to come.

1. Consider holding the two events at the same time. I think it would increase the attendance at the Taste of Brookhaven and would add a new culinary artistic flavor to the Arts Festival. Maybe the Taste of Brookhaven could be held on the Saturday night of the festival or just made part of the two-day event. It worked for the Chamblee Festival some weeks ago—combining a taste event with an arts and crafts event. The Buckhead Business Association draws well for its annual Taste of Buckhead Business event, which combines restaurants with other businesses.

2. Rethink the $40 ticket price for the Taste of Brookhaven. Most “Taste of” events charge a small fee for tastes from each of the individual restaurants. That way, patrons are only paying for the food they like and really want to eat, not paying for everything whether or not they like some of the food. While at the Sandy Springs Festival Sept. 25 and 26, I was approached by a gentleman who urged me to criticize the promoters of the Taste of Brookhaven for the $40 price tag, for the very reasons I have just pointed out. He also labeled it as elitist. I don’t want to go that far and I don’t want to be critical. I do, however, want to offer any suggestions I think can improve events to promote Brookhaven.

One last item

3. Don’t schedule an event such as the Taste of Brookhaven on a major Jewish holiday, Remember that a large segment of the population in Brookhaven and surrounding communities that could support such an event—Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs—is Jewish and they will not ignore their high holidays to participate in such an event.

Those are my thoughts and suggestions for making the two events stronger and possibly making it easier to find sponsors and volunteers to make them more successful.

I’ll see you at the Brookhaven Arts Festival on Oct. 16 and 17 and you can tell me if you agree or disagree. Here’s to a successful, festive event!