The Longwood Arts & Crafts Festival prepares for its 40th annual exhibition
Floridians can feel when fall is approaching. Temperatures drop a few (but meaningful) degrees, light jackets are brought out of hiding, and for the past 40 years, one of the traditional harbingers of the season has been the Longwood Arts & Crafts Festival.
Four decades ago, a few short years after acquiring and relocating the renowned Bradlee-McIntyre House and Inside-Outside House to downtown Longwood in 1973, the Longwood Historic Society (LHS) embarked on another new and exciting project – a fundraising effort in the form of a first-of-its-kind Arts & Crafts Festival. Members of the LHS knew that preserving the notable properties would come at a cost. They founded the festival with a vision that is still central to the group’s mission today:
maintain the town’s historic wooden buildings and manage them as public assets that will benefit future generations. Although a daunting challenge, the then-small historical society was not deterred. In 1976, the Longwood Arts & Crafts Festival was born.
Artisans gathered that year in the heart of Longwood’s Historic District, which remains the fesitval’s site. Although times have changed a bit since that Bicentennial year, one thing that hasn’t is the town’s pride of ownership in its historic properties. As visitors to the festival stroll the brick-paved, tree-lined streets off Highways 434 and 427, they are treated to a trip through time as they enjoy the 120-year-old buildings that create a beautiful backdrop to their shopping excursions.
Traditionally held the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Arts & Crafts Festival unofficially kicks off the holiday gift-buying season for tens of thousands of Central Floridians. Booths abound with original artwork, jewelry, seasonal crafts, collectibles, and one-of-a-kind handmade items. This year’s 40th celebration will feature a brand-new farmers market, foliage vendors, and an array of new artists. Another new addition: SunRail will run on the Saturday of the festival to give visitors the convenient option to shop and ride.
Planning for this much-anticipated event begins each September, but not the September leading up to the festival. At least 14
months before the first booth goes up, the LHS sets the festival’s wheels in motion. Donna Bundy has held the reins as festival chair since 2000. Like all LHS members, her time and dedication are on a purely volunteer basis. Donna estimates that hundreds of hours are spent by the festival team to ensure each year’s event is another success.
Donna is proud of the widespread reputation the festival has earned over the years. She describes the weekend as one of fun, fellowship, and lifelong friendships, but she is also quick to point out its significance.
“Our goal is to maintain the historic buildings and allow the public to access them to promote education,” Donna says.
Assisting with advertising and publicity for the event, Beverly Winesburgh describes how the majority of this year’s proceeds will be used.
“We are always looking to grow and evolve, creating diverse opportunities for the community to enjoy,” says Beverly, explaining that funds from the 40th annual festival will help renovate the Longwood Civic Center, formerly the Longwood Civic League/Woman’s Club building.
The 40th annual Longwood Arts & Crafts Festival will be held rain or shine on Saturday and Sunday, November 19-20, opening at 9:00 a.m. each day. As always, all activities are free and open to the public, including museum tours of Longwood’s circa-1895 antique buildings.
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