The return of the Dunwoody Arts Festival to the center of the city has been met with mixed reviews from attendees.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 event, and in 2021, the festival moved to Brook Run Park off North Peachtree Road. Crowds were estimated at 30,000, with more than 170 vendors. This year, the Mother’s Day event moved back to Dunwoody Village Parkway, which disappointed some attendees.
“I always enjoy the event, but I really enjoyed last year (at Brook Run) because there was so much room throughout,” said Dunwoody resident Dana Gaines. “For so many of us, it’s also a social event where we run into people we know. On the parkway, it was so tight that you had to squeeze around people who were chatting.”
Others said they were disappointed by the lack of diversity in this year’s vendors. Erin Smith, a longtime attendee of the festival, said she didn’t see some of her favorite artisans, and there seemed to be a heavy emphasis on jewelry and pottery.
“These are things that I have plenty of, and I just didn’t see anything new that caught my eye,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed because I really love this event.”
Splash Festival President Frances Schube, whose company puts on the annual event, said the decision to move the event back to Dunwoody Village Parkway was the result of several factors.
“It’s a street fest, and the city likes to have it there, and the businesses around Dunwoody Village like having it there,” Schube said. “It also is difficult to have Lemonade Days at Brook Run in April and then turn around and have another major festival a few weeks later.”
In addition, Schube said that Brook Run posed several problems for vendors, including transporting their wares to their booths.
“Without a major roadway close to the booths, it was difficult to load and unload,” she said. “Also, we heard that it was difficult to maneuver wheelchairs on the grass last year at Brook Run to shop the artists who were not on the street. Even though there is a hill on the parkway, we did notice that people who were in the chairs had an easier time on asphalt.”
Schube said organizers made a conscious decision to reduce the number of vendors to 120 to space out the booths along the parkway and allow for better crowd flow. In addition, she said many of the vendors who had traditionally come to the festival were economic victims of the pandemic.
“Because of the pandemic, many of our artists couldn’t sustain their businesses, which makes me so sad,” she said. “But there were several vendors this year who reported that they had record sales.”
Schube complimented the Dunwoody police for their security efforts, as well as Dunwoody and Chamblee High School students who volunteered to help vendors load and unload, distribute water, and assist in other tasks.
“Everything just felt safe and there were no security or medical issues at all,” she said. “Although the weather was windy and cold on Saturday, on Sunday it was perfect, and we had great crowds.”