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New Location For “Festival In the Park Inc” Gets Mixed Reviews

Festival goers check out the crafts that were offered by a variety of vendors.
Festival goers check out the crafts that were offered by a variety of vendors.

With a new location and a new group behind what used to be known as Roanoke’s “Festival in the Park”, this year’s Roanoke Festival in the Park, Inc. organized by Downtown Roanoke, Incorporated was held at the River’s Edge Sports Complex.  The festival was moved because of all the construction at the old Elmwood Park location but depending on whom you asked, reaction to the new location was mixed.

Don Dennehy from Roanoke County attended the festival with his wife, Liz, and dog, Molly.  “I like the vendors – to look around and see the crafts that they have and so forth,” Don said. They have attended the festival for many years and felt that Elmwood Park was a nice location, “because you could walk around and downtown was there so you could eat at the restaurants.”  The couple sat in folding camping chairs enjoying Italian sausage and a chicken pita. Don was looking forward to the 1964 Beatles tribute concert. “We’re old Beatle fans.”

But Liz Dennehy didn’t seem to mind the change.  “It’s a little more spread out. It’s kind of a good idea because it does seem like it’s roomier so it doesn’t feel so close in and crowded.”

Organizers said they decided to let attendees bring their leashed dogs into the festival for the first time since they are always allowed on the nearby Greenway.  Don appreciated being able to bring his dog Molly. “She likes to come with us.  In fact, we were going to come by ourselves and she laid down by the door and wouldn’t let us leave.”

Also new this year, there was no admission charge to the concerts on Memorial Day, the final day of the 4-day festival.  Organizers said it was their gift to the community.

Linda Wray from Roanoke had a booth selling handmade wreaths. She didn’t like the new location. “If they have it at Elmwood Park I’ll be back but if they continue to have it here, I won’t.” She said her sales were slow and she’ll have to rethink coming back to the festival next year. She participates in several regional arts and crafts festivals and said she had good results at Elmwood Park last year.

“There is no comparison; Elmwood Park was by far better.  “It’s [tradition].  They’ve been having the show there for, like, 30 years or something, I’m not sure.  And it was sort of like the ambiance kind of thing.”  She said there were more crafters at Elmwood Park as well.  “We didn’t have that many crafters today or this weekend . . . .and there’s not as many people.”

According to officials the festival will likely return to the newly renovated Elmwood Park next year.

 – Beverly Amsler

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