The Pinetop-Lakeside Chamber of Commerce just couldn’t accept that after 44 years they would need to cancel the year’s biggest event. Along with the Run to the Pines Car Show, the weekend draws tens of thousands of people to Arizona’s incomparable White Mountain and typically generates enough revenue to see the town’s small businesses through the slow winter season. After an incredibly hard 2020, in which every one of the chamber’s fundraising events was canceled, the chamber’s board knew the chamber and the local small businesses would be dealt a devasting blow if visitors didn’t spend the final weekend of September in Pinetop-Lakeside as they had done for more than four decades.
Says the chamber’s chairman, Cyndie Shaffstall, “Our events draw thousands and thousands of visitors during the spring, summer, and early fall months. Without these, many of our businesses struggle to stay open. With the governor’s orders for restaurant and bar closures, mandates for social distancing, and requirements for masks, our tourism economy has taken a devasting blow and we are concerned some businesses may not survive. Finding a way to make our fall festival happen was critical.”
With one goal in mind—keep the festival open—the chamber, with support of the town, the local hospital, and the local paper, redesigned the Fall Artisans Festival as a “distributed” event. Instead of positioning 60+ vendors at the Orchard at Charlie Clark’s, the usual venue, 15 returning vendors will remain at the Orchard and the remaining vendors will be located next to small businesses throughout the town. With more than 80 available, prime locations, vendors will benefit from an opportunity to sell their wares and the host businesses will benefit from traffic drawn by the vendors. These distanced locations mean visitors can frequent a vendor’s booth without risks associated with crowds. All vendors are required to wear masks and all visitors are encouraged to do the same.
“We want to be sure every vendor and small business is easily found so, with funding from the town, we have created an illustrated, collectible 16″ X 20″ map with every Pinetop-Lakeside business and Fall Artisans Festival vendor marked,” adds Shaffstall. The maps will be available around the first of September at the chamber and town hall and during the event at the Orchard at Charlie Clark’s.
Vendors across the U.S are encouraged to reserve a spot with the online application and, of course, visitors from everywhere are invited to the town of Pinetop-Lakeside to enjoy a safe-distancing arts festival. Reservations are highly recommended as most hotels were booked a year in advance. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, some cancelations have made available last-minute reservations. Voted best cabin region by Cabin Living Magazine, the White Mountain region also has cabins that can be booked through VRBO and Airbnb.
“We hope this will be our biggest year ever,” says vice chairman Rica Girardi. “People are desperately looking for a way to cap off the summer in a safe way. This is it.”
The Fall Artisans Festival, sponsored by Summit Healthcare, the town of Pinetop-Lakeside, and the White Mountain Independent, will be held September 25 – 27, 2020, in Pinetop-Lakeside Arizona. About 3.5 hours from Phoenix or Tucson, the White Mountain enjoys summer temperatures about 30° lower than those of its desert neighbors.
The Tiny Home Raffle will be closed and a winner draws on September 27 on the stage at the Orchard at Charlie Clark’s.