By Lyndsie Kiebert
Change isn’t easy. And it’s made even harder after almost 50 years of consistency.
The change, in this case, is the relocation of the Pend Oreille Arts Council Arts and Crafts Fair from City Beach — the event’s home for the last 45 years — to downtown Sandpoint.
POAC Arts Administrator Hannah Combs said since the city of Sandpoint proposed the change in February, she’s worked closely with them to work out the logistics of moving the huge event onto Main Street and Second Avenue. Nearly 100 booths will line both sides of the streets reaching out to First and Third avenues and Church and Cedar streets, which will all be drivable during the event.
This year, the two-day fair will take place Aug. 11 and 12 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunday. It will take place simultaneously with the regularly scheduled Saturday farmers’ market, and will also occur during a Festival at Sandpoint weekend.
All of those factors contribute to what Combs admits is a challenge, but she’s approaching the change with a positive outlook.
“New challenges can be a good thing because they make us reexamine how to make the event better,” she said. “Being down at City Beach for 45 years — we had that dialed in. But this should work out really well.”
Combs said working out the logistical kinks is still a work in progress. For instance, she said it takes fair vendors several hours to get their booths set up, so POAC hopes to have booths set up Friday night. They’re working with law enforcement to keep the booths patrolled through Friday and Saturday night. Also, vendors will park in the main city parking lot.
“We’re still trying to figure out minor details, but I think we’re all looking forward to having great crowds,” Combs said of POAC, the farmers’ market and local businesses. “(The Arts and Crafts Fair) could be a great bridge between the farmers’ market and shopping on First Avenue.”
City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said moving the Arts and Crafts Fair from the beach to downtown is part of a larger plan to make downtown Sandpoint the main event hub. Stapleton said taking pressure of beach recreators, freeing up the City Beach parking lot and ushering event goers downtown toward brick and mortar businesses creates a win for everyone involved.
“Everyone loves the views at the beach, but we have a beautiful downtown, too,” she said. “It comes down to, ‘How can we create a vibrant downtown and support our businesses through this construction?’ It creates symbiotic benefit.”
Stapleton said such a big change won’t come without lessons, but that everything learned this time around will make future events go more smoothly. She said even with all the logistical challenges — like unloading, loading, parking and more — POAC has been open to the change.
“I really can’t commend the POAC board enough,” she said. “The easy answer is to say, ‘No, we’re sticking to the status quo,’ but they’ve been great team players.”