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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

17th Annual Celebrate Clayton Art Festival

Mar 21, 2016 09:03PM ● By Ryan Frisch

“Celebrate Clayton” Is Coming to Town!

By John Shivers

You know it’s spring in Rabun County, when bright blooms inspired by warmer weather adorn the landscape, and a new crop of tents and people sprout up from the asphalt on Clayton’s Main Street.  Nothing proclaims the return of kinder, gentler temperatures more loudly than the annual "Celebrate Clayton" festival. This year’s edition on April 30th and May 1st is the seventeenth annual congregation of art and food and visitors galore. Saturday’s hours are 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday hours from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM There is no admission charge.

The street festival, set amid the spectacular backdrop of mountains, is avidly anticipated by vacationers, visitors and locals alike. Many plan their last weekend in April around this event. It’s a chance to enjoy and purchase unique art and crafts, and have a great time in the process.

This year, for the first time, coordination of the entire event is under the solo auspices of the North Georgia Arts Guild. Originally conceived by the Clayton Downtown Merchants, last year the mantle passed to the Clayton Rotary Club and the Arts Guild. This year the Guild will assume total responsibility, intent that this phenomenal weekend will continue to provide the entire community with a family-friendly, fun and exciting art experience.

Preparations are being made to accommodate some 100 exhibitors in the Artist Market on Main Street. Within the tents lining Main Street, you will meet lots of new artists and fine crafters from near and far, as well as old favorites who have participated through the years.  While shopping, treat yourself to breakfast or lunch - there will be a great variety of food offerings throughout the festival.  And when you need a break, pull up a chair on the shady Rock House lawn and enjoy local musicians, both new and old favorites, who will entertain both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  

Feedback is always solicited from exhibitors at the end of each festival and scrutinized by organizers, who strive to make each year's show better than the last.  Exhibitors have consistently cited the professionalism and organization of the show, recognizing the Boy Scouts who assist with set-up and break-down as well as a plethora of other tasks and assignments.

One suggestion being adopted this year is spreading food booths throughout the area, instead of limiting them to a single location in the "food court”. Also, more varied menu items will be  available including breakfast, vegetarian options, BBQ, kettle corn, ice cream and more. 

New this year is the high school art exhibit and competition, open to all Rabun County art students, in Veteran’s Park on Saturday. Awards will be presented for “Best in Show” and “Judges’ Choice”. The art students will also staff the Kid's Art Corner, offering a fun art experience. 

A birds-eye view of the “Celebrate Clayton” landscape during past events reveals a downtown teeming with young and old, couples, families and singles. Overheard conversations wafting throughout the downtown, from Georgia Power on the south end to the post office on the north, provide a glimpse into which exhibitors are most popular with festival-goers, and where to grab the best eats. Over all, the thousands of people who come through the festival at some point throughout the two days, are testimony to the caliber and quality that has consistently been “Celebrate Clayton”.

It also hints at the difficult task festival judges face as they determine which artist will be declared “Best in Show”, and which five will receive “Judges’ Choice” awards for a single outstanding piece within their booths. This annual showing is made possible by a wide range of sponsors besides the North Georgia Arts Guild, including (but not limited to) the Clayton Downtown Development Authority, Clayton Merchants and Business Association, Nancy and Vince Skilling, City of Clayton, The Clayton Tribune, SKY 96.3, Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine, Happy Jack Graphics, Harry Norman Realtors, Reeves Hardware, Rocky and Kathy Ford, WarWoman Ventures, Rabun County Civic Center, Duvall Automotive, Mountain Trophies, Tugalo Gas Company, Rabun County Bank, Clayton Printing and Rabun Flooring.

For additional information on specifics of this year’s “Celebrate Clayton” log on to

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