OWATONNA — Following the resignation of six board members and president, the remaining members at the Owatonna Arts Center serving on the Festival of the Arts Committee decided to cancel the 23rd annual event due to a lack of interest.
“There’s not as many artists as we would need to fill the park,” said Cindy Rossow, former board member currently serving on the festival committee. “We trust that we will be hosting a wonderful, diverse arts festival next year.”
Rossow said turnout and artist participation last year was less than what the OAC would typically like to have. The Festival of the Arts was held the last weekend of July since 1993 and, over the past several years, has been coupled with Crazy Days sidewalk sale and the street dance in downtown Owatonna — a time that was dubbed “5 Days of Fun,” later shortened to four.
The festival occupied Central Park for two days and attracted dozens of artists from around the region, some even around the world, Rossow said, adding that the OAC can accommodate up to 64 artists and that’s the target.
But this year, the OAC fell short. Only eight artists signed up, according to Jeff Springborg, archivist and OAC volunteer.
Registration for the festival has been open since the first of the year. Rossow said there was a “low response from the artists” which she said is disappointing.
“But a lot of factors play into an artist’s decision to participate,” she said.
One factor not at play, though, according to new OAC board president Arlan Burmeister, is ongoing difficulties at the arts center.
“This has nothing to do with people resigning or anything like that,” said Burmeister, who was automatically appointed as president after April Paxton resigned from that position last month.
But the cancellation of at least one other event — the Justyn Dow concert that had been slated for this weekend — may have connections to the difficulties at the center. That at least was the opinion of Dow himself, who, in a Twitter post on Monday, said that the concert was called off “due to some conflicts within the OAC.”
But when asked if other conflicts — such as building project delays, money disputes and deficiencies — could deter artists from participating, Burmeister preferred to stay positive.
“Everything we’ve seen up there has been turmoil,” he said. “That’s not where it should be and we’re moving forward.”
At the next OAC board meeting on April 21, Burmeister said new officers will be elected and members appointed. Members will also discuss the festival and think of ways, if any, the OAC could still be involved with the annual downtown event.
“It’s definitely going to be different without the festival taking place,” said Melanie Sunnarborg, director of marketing and MainStreet for the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
“The festival has been a big draw for many years and has helped with the retail portion of Crazy Days,” she said.
Downtown business owners will meet to figure out how to “react on our end and still be successful” after the OAC meeting, Sunnarborg added.
Crazy Days could condense again without the festival. Central Park is normally occupied by the Farmers Market on Saturdays and so that would fill the void, but the chamber and OAC could come up with an alternative event to keep downtown busy that weekend.