that time of year again up in Cache Valley, where downtown Logan
becomes a festival for the arts. Summerfest! Making
the 25th year of the event, Summerfest has always been a popular
gatheting for the state, showing off visual and musical arts for an
all ages venue. I got an opprotunity to talk to Summerfest's
Board Chairman Wally Bloss about the festival and a few other topics
that came to mind. ---
Gavin: Hey Wally, tell us a little about yourself.
Wally: I am the Board Chair of a great group of people who have moved the Summerfest Arts Faire back to downtown Logan. Each of us has a specific assignment for the festival, and we coordinate thru the office and festival manager, Steve Bower. My "day job" is running the Ellen Eccles Theatre. I've been in Utah almost 4 years, but used to run the Trails West! festival in St Joseph, Mo. Others on the committee include a Realtor, another arts guy with the Utah Festival Opera, a marketing person, a teacher, a visual artist, a dietician, a CPA, an economic developer, a jeweler, etc. It's an eclectic group that is excited about the arts in Cache Valley, and like the spirit of community at the festival.
Gavin: For those who don't know, what is Summerfest?
Wally: It's an arts fair comprised of over 100 visual artists, with lots of things for families to do... including an arts yard for the younger set, entertainment on the stage for the whole family, and of course very "healthy" festival food!
Gavin: How did the festival first get started?
Wally: This is the 25th year and I've only been in Cache Valley 4 years, so I don't know all the details. It has been operated by USU, the Hospital Auxiliary, the Logan City Parks and Rec Dept, and the Downtown Alliance... and now is its own organization.
Gavin: How would you compare the festival now to what it was say, five years ago, or even ten years ago?
Wally: What has been great for the last 2 years is the focus back on the arts. For several years the event was moved to the county fairgrounds, which were not really conducive to the arts...it looked more like... well a county fair without the livestock.
Gavin: This year is the 25th year for the festival. What do you think has kept it running for so long?
Wally: Cache Valley is really a hotbed for the visual and performing arts. We have a large number of people who make their living as artists, and sell in galleries all over the Western US. Locals do not get a chance to see their work as much.
Gavin: Over the years I've at least noticed there's been an inconsistency of how big or small the festival is, or really what to expect that year. Do you like the idea that every year you just don't know what you'll see, or do you wish there was a single plan to it every year?
Wally: Good question - the inconsistency has been related to what organization has been running it. With the move in 2007 to put the event back at the Tabernacle Square there was a significant communal sigh of relief from the town - it just works much better in a nice tree shaded square block in the downtown area instead of off in a dusty fairgrounds. These past 2 years have been a big change, and has had some growing pains, but I think it will solidify into a great show over the next few years. The Plein Air exhibit has about 50 artists out painting all over Cache Valley this week, and their works will be displayed (and for sale!) on the grounds during the weekend.
Gavin: Is there anything you wish the festival would add to its program, or something you think has run its course and should be retired?
Wally: Something to look for in the future might be some sort of on-site temporary public art - maybe a statue made from "recyclables" or maybe a weekend-long chalk drawing - that sort of immediate/temporary artmaking activity.
Gavin: A little on art, what are your thoughts on the local art scene in Utah, both good and bad?
Wally: Utah is alive in the arts - maybe a bit more alive in the traditional visual and performing arts, and not so much bleeding edge stuff in Utah in general, but lots of good solid visual artists and performances. The new website is chock-a-block with artsy things to do all over the state.
Gavin: Is there anything you think could be done to make it better?
Wally: People need to look beyond what they are familiar with and learn new ways of communicating in the arts. At the Ellen Eccles Theatre next season we are bringing in Gypsy Jazz, several touring Broadway shows, a Taiko Drumming group from California for example - first time for Taiko on a main stage here! Get out of the house, put down the cellphone, and see a live performance!
Gavin: Switching a little more local, what's your take on the music scene in Logan now that it's becoming more of a hotspot?
Wally: Just here in little old Cache Valley we have world class Opera and Broadway musicals that run for a month every summer , along with the Old Lyric Repertory Company presenting 4 plays in rep all summer long, a daily FREE music presentation every noon at the Tabernacle, and bunches of arts camps and activities for the kids. We just established an Arts District in downtown Logan, with three live theatres, half a dozen galleries and lots going on in a 3 block area. A local sound studio just near the downtown coffee shop has a live band every weekend, and the University and a local presenter are sponsoring an "after performance" younger social gathering called "Scene III." We even get artists and arts groups to talk with each other - every 3 months we have a "Cache Valley Arts Summit" for arts groups to exchange "best practices" and talk about joint marketing and collaboration. We share our resources and about 25 arts groups print up a 6 month calendar and mail to 10,000 folk in the area.
Gavin: Tell us about this year's Summerfest and some of the big things we can expect to see.
Wally: The mainstay is over 100 visual artists - great juried arts. The Plein Air exhibition will showcase 50 or so artists who have painted their take on Cache Valley in the last 48 hours. And plenty of family fare musical entertainment from opera to country to rock...
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug?
Wally: Come on up to Cache Valley - no need to pack a lunch - and see some great art, hear some good tunes, and enjoy the art on the beautiful Tabernacle grounds right on Main Street. The Wellsvilles are still great to view with their base green and their peaks white. It's a very scenic outing on less than a tank of gas. And gas is only 99 cents a gallon here in Cache Valley! (OK I went a bit too far, sorry.)