July 17, 2008

Arts Festival Best Ever Held, Organizer Says

By Leslie H. Dixon

NORWAY - Norway Arts Festival organizers said this week that this year's event was the best in its 41-year history in terms of crowd turnout despite a slight drop in sales for artists.

An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people, the approximate population of town of Norway, turned out July 12 for the 41st annual sidewalk arts show, the featured event in the festival. The event attracted more than 100 artists from across New England to show and sell their work. The festival, co-sponsored by the Western Maine Art Group and Norway Downtown, also included live musical and theatrical performances.

"Reports from across the board say this was the best attended festival so far," said Aranka Matolcsy, co-coordinator of the festival. Matolcsy said artist Duncan Slade, who has attended every festival since 1979, also confirmed it was the best crowd he has seen.

"Logistically we turned out a very well produced show," said Matolcsy, who noted that the show's success is evidence of how well Western Maine Art Group and Downtown Norway work together.

Matolcsy said that while many artists reported sales down due to the national economic downturn, they still deemed the show a great success. "Some artists reported their best sales of any Norway Arts Festival," she said.

This year, $5,725 was raised to give out 24 cash awards, the largest in the festival's history.

The Western Maine Art Group dominated the winners, said Matolcsy, who noted that none of the judges were from the group.

Besides art work, musical and theatrical performances, the festival included dancers this year.

"I'm happy with the extra piece," said co-coordinator Rijah Newell of the dancers who included a belly dance troop from Portland, a sword dancer, a solo belly dancer from Sumner and a hip hop dance group from Casco.

Newell, who is also a dancer, said she brought the dance component to the festival to "broaden the scope of what our area has for dance available and to bring in other dances this area hasn't seen before."

Matolcsy said the festival's success would not have been possible without the help of 30 volunteers and downtown merchants who made sure their storefronts were at their best.

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Originally published by Staff Writer.

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