Last year marked the first time in 57 years that the East Lansing Art Festival (ELAF) didn’t take place in the downtown streets, instead turning to a virtual festival held on Facebook. This year, event organizers are postponing the annual event, which normally occurs in May, to August 7-8, hoping that this timing will allow an in-person art fest.
This year’s event will have a smaller footprint than the usual festival that ordinarily welcomes anywhere from 60,000 to 70,000 people and 180 to 200 artists over the two-day weekend. ELAF and Art Initiatives Coordinator for the City of East Lansing Heather Majano said the City decided to announce its plans on January 28, after much deliberation.
“We spent two to three months beforehand doing a lot of research, weighing our options, watching the changes in things allowed, and things required of events due to the COVID-19 impact, and its prevalence in our community.”
ELAF is usually held in conjunction with the Michigan State University Spring Arts & Crafts Fair. Majano said the collaboration works well together, encouraging a wide range of people to visit downtown and the campus every Spring. The event organizers “really left no stone unturned” in trying to solidify the new event dates, but it’s not yet clear what’s happening with the MSU craft fair.
“We felt it was important for us to make our decision before the artist application deadline for the festival, so it would give artists a chance to decide if they could still make it to our festival,” Majano said. “It was really important for us to make that call since the artists are the key part of our festival.”
The festival is still accepting artist applications until Feb. 15, an extension from the previous Jan. 31 deadline.
Last year’s virtual festival was not as successful as the traditional in-person event, so this year, organizers wanted to offer artists a more feasible option.
“Instead of going completely virtual, we wanted to give the artist the best chance we could of having an in-person festival. A May in-person festival is not going to happen for us. City leadership told us if we kept the festival in May, it would have to be virtual again,” said Mojano.
“Moving it out to August gives us a better chance for the vaccine to be administered more widely. Last year, we observed in the summer months that more people were outside, and able to be distanced in spaces together, like at the East Lansing Farmers’ Market,” she continued.
Majano stated that cautionary measures will be taken as recommended at the time, and if advised to, the 2021 festival will switch to virtual yet again.
“We’re hopeful that because we pushed it out to August, that there’s a better chance of some kind of in-person portion of the festival.”
“We are fully planning to comply with health orders at the time of the festival. There will be no leniency for people who are not complying with the health orders at that time,” Majano said.
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