Plans for Artsfest expand in scope to fill void


Since plans aren’t being made to restart the Jackson County Watermelon Festival this year, another annual event looks to take its place.

That would be Artsfest, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29 in Brownstown and Ewing.

Brian McIntosh, a Brownstown/Ewing Main Street board member, recently shared that news with the Brownstown Town Council.

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He said it’s in the early stages of planning, but nearly 20 vendors already have signed up for booths around the Jackson County Courthouse square, and a music venue has been established at Heritage Park. And in Ewing, nearly 30 artists and craftspeople have asked for space inside W.R. Ewing.

McIntosh received approval to close the streets around three sides of the square in Brownstown and West Spring Street from Ewing Street to Depot Street in Ewing from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the day of the event.

“Depending on the amount of vendors we get solid commitments from, we may not have to close all of the streets,” McIntosh said. “It would be great if we could fill them up, and that’s what we’re working on. Apparently, this is looking to take the place of the watermelon festival, so we’re hoping to build each year but do it slowly and solidly where we know what’s going to work and what’s not.”

McIntosh said a schedule of events will be released soon, but he already has fliers.

The event will include art, crafts, food, music and demonstrations.

Also, the restored Ewing Depot will be open for tours. McIntosh said a video about its history will be playing inside, and there may be a car show outside.

The first Artsfest was conducted in 2013, and the second one was the next year, but the 2015 event was rained out. Then last year, rain forced all of the events to be moved to Ewing.

A festival celebrating the harvest of Jackson County watermelons had been conducted for 48 years in late summer in Brownstown until organizers announced the 2016 event was canceled.

In a post on the festival’s Facebook page, festival committee President Esther Hall said, “It is with deepest regret that I must inform you that we will be unable to have a festival this year. We want to make sure that we have the safest festival possible, and unfortunately, we do not feel that our electric standards are up to code and will be using this year to revamp and reorganize the festival.”

The only event conducted last summer was a 5K run/walk benefiting the Brownstown Exchange Club.

Hall said last summer that the state fire marshal provided a list of things that needed to be changed before granting another permit for the festival. The committee was going to receive estimates for the electrical upgrades and ask for financial support from the community.

Hall also had said the 2016 festival was canceled because of it conflicting with other events around the county, so the 2017 festival was going to be moved to the third weekend of September. But so far, no plans have been announced about this year’s festival.