Arts in the Park: Granite Lake Parks hosts local, family-friendly event

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 4, 2024

GRANITE QUARRY — More than 800 people made their way to Granite Lake Park on Saturday to enjoy the fourth annual Arts in the Park, an event in Granite Quarry where local students and artists are encouraged to showcase their talents and vendors are only allowed to sell handcrafted items.

The event began in 2021 as a way for the town to showcase art from local schools, said Granite Quarry Events Coordinator Debbie Loflin-Benge, and the town has worked since to make the event a space for families to come together and enjoy the works of the members, especially children, of the community. Saturday’s event showcased the East Rowan Jazz Ensemble and Dimension Dance Studio, Loflin-Benge said.

“With those acts comes a lot of parents and other family members, so a lot of families end up there together. We’d like to have a lot more of that and less of the other acts, not saying they aren’t great. We had one parent who said that they wanted to bring out their taekwondo class, and that’s what we hope to add,” said Loflin-Benge.

Another way the event is unique is that any vendors that sign up to participate are only allowed to bring in handcrafted wares. If a vendor wishes to sell an artistic T-shirt, even that would need to be hand-decorated, according to Loflin-Benge.

All of this is meant to sponsor a laid-back environment, one where plein-air, or open-air, artists set up easels and paint the goings-on, town staff and volunteers offer Mother’s Day art stations and stalls are filled with paintings or hand-made jewelry.

Granite Lake Park is an under-utilized space for events, and staff is constantly looking at ways to improve upon the shortcomings of the geography, Loflin-Benge said. On Saturday, the town brought in F&M trolleys to alleviate some of the issues with the small amount of parking space in the immediate area of the park, but other issues have arisen with the terrain of the location.

Vendors also struggled at the event because of the limited space on location, which meant that they could not pull their cars directly into the event space to set up.

“We want to be able to use the park more often, but we haven’t been able to find a way past the setbacks,” said Loflin-Benge.

Arts in the Park did not lack participation on Saturday, however, with the town estimating that between 800 and 1,000 people stopped by Granite Lake Park. 

For close to a decade, the park was booked for a spring plant sale on the last weekend in April, held in cooperation with local schools such as Carson High School, but the town had to pivot after the schools began to taper back their participation, Loflin-Benge said.

“After the spring plant sale, it changed to ‘a day in the garden,’ and that felt a lot like the plant sale. We thought, ‘what can we do that’s a little bit different than what everybody else is doing,’” she said.

The town’s Events Committee came up with an event based around the community’s artwork, one where the art is the entire focus of the event. Vendors have only mentioned one other event that’s somewhat similar, the Art in the Park event which is held monthly from May to October.

Loflin-Benge said that for now, the town’s staff is looking into bringing more acts on-board for next year, such as the potential for skits and other types of art not currently a part of the event.

“We want to give people the opportunity to see something you’d normally have to pay a ticket to go see somewhere else,” said Loflin-Benge.