One of Two Large Art Festivals Held Yearly
Another fantastic Fountain Hills Great Fair was held on February 20-22, 2009. This yearly event is one of two major arts and crafts fairs held yearly in Fountain Hills. The other is the Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts which occurs in November. Both take advantage of the generally perfect weather in November and February.
The Great Fair is a three-day juried art fair which hosts approximately 500 artists that come from all over the country to display and sell their art. It is estimated that over 200,000 people come yearly to enjoy a day at the Great Fair. The Fair is located in downtown Fountain Hills. To accommodate the event, Ave of the Fountains is closed off from La Montana Dr to Saguaro Blvd, and Saguaro Blvd is closed off from Panorama Dr to El Lago Blvd. The artist’s tents line both sides of Ave of the Fountains and Saguaro Blvd. Entrance is free, and parking is free also! In addition to the artists, there is plenty of tasty food available, live music, and on Sunday morning a Hot Air Balloon Rally is launched from the Fountain Park before the Great Fair re-opens for business.
Artists and Art
There are almost 500 artists showing and selling their wares at the Fountain Hills Great Fair. Pottery, metal art, paintings, photos, apparel, sculpture, jewelry, glass and mixed-media in dozens of varieties are found. Even culinary artists have their unique salsas, candies and gourmet chocolates for sale. Many of the beautiful creations glint and sparkle in the sun catching fairgoers eyes and drawing them in for a closer look. A few of the artists live and create locally, right here in Fountain Hills, while others are from thousands of miles away. Stop and talk to any of these people and you can tell the passion they have for their medium and creations. This year many vendors were offering specials on their art in order to entice potential buyers with economy-tightened wallets. Empirically it seemed to be working, evidenced by all the people carrying items back to their cars.
The Great Fair has a fantastic, upbeat ambience to it. It bustles with energy and excitement throughout by the virtue of the visitors enjoying themselves, but is also enhanced by the vibrant sounds of live music echoing throughout the event. Live entertainment is located at the center of the Fair where the Ave of the Fountains meets Saguaro Blvd. In 2009, two great performers, Brule’ and the Sahnas Brothers were the perfect choice for this event. Brule’ is a an extremely energetic Native American band, while the Sahnas Brothers blend the sounds and rhythms of their native Greek culture with classical Spanish guitar styling. Both ensembles had the crowds captivated.
If you are worried about what food to bring to the Great Fair, drop that thought! At the middle and each end of the fair there are a variety of food vendors working hard to please your palate. The standard fair-food is available: hamburgers and hot dogs, Kettlecorn, Mexican delicacies, and more. Additionally you will find stands with tasty gourmet treats such as local Chocofin Chocolates and fudges. If you would rather go dine at a local establishment there is no shortage of those either – check out the FountainHillsGuide.com Restaurant Guide section for your choices. Some of these are within walking distance, and others are a short drive away. The local Kiwanis organization served a great breakfast at the park on Sunday morning while the balloon rally was underway. Plenty of seating is available throughout the venue, or for an especially enjoyable experience take your food and sit in the Fountain Park.
Hot Air Balloon Rally
Bright and Early on Sunday morning of the last day of the Great Fair, hot air balloons launch into the sky. This event only occurs if the weather allows it, which is thankfully most years. This is quite a sight to behold as some of the balloons attempt a traditional ‘dip’ in the lake before launching skyward and away. The idea is to just touch the bottom of the basket in the lake and then travel skyward. This is a great photo opportunity as the reflection of the brightly colored balloons off the lake is quite beautiful. The balloons generally launch between 7 and 7:30am and there has been as many as 30 balloons before, although in 2009 there were about a dozen. At 8am the festivities at the Fair start up again for its final day.
As with other events run by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce the Fountain Hills Great Fair is well-run and a joy to attend. There are three main thoroughfares into town off of Shea Blvd: Saguaro Blvd (nearest to Shea and 87), Fountain Hills Blvd and Palisades Blvd (nearest to Scottsdale). Enter on any of these and you will see the signs guiding you to the free parking. Attendance is FREE! The fair is open full days on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in February. In 2009 it opened at 8am and closed at 5pm each day. The Hot Air Balloon Rally occurs on Sunday at 7:00am, weather permitting. The Great Fair happens rain or shine, just make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes as there are a lot of great booths to see! Wheelchairs and scooters are available to rent. The Chamber asks you to kindly leave your pets at home for their comfort and as a courtesy to other patrons.