Brief History of the Eatonville Art Festival
an art critic's glowing report about the 1976 art festival
the many miniature creations by Eatonville resident "Chip Heinz" this
Rockwellian scene depicts a loving family greeting a new baby. His
work can be seen in various locations around Eatonville including Key
Bank, library and liquor store window. Next to the little house is a
sampling of wildlife and outdoor scenes. Both photos are from the 2005 Art
Troccoli the Innovator...
This photo was scanned from the August 9, 1973 issue of the Dispatch.
Vince wasn't a rock star, nor a singer. He was announcing something to
the crowd. Much of the MC job went to others while Vince spend most of his
time making sure the artists and crafts people were happy. The boys in the
band are KW and Karl Iams, sons of Nancy Iams proprietor of the popular
"Holly Hut" gift shop in Eatonville.
In August 1972 a prescient story was on the Dispatch
front page. "First Art Festival This Saturday" - In a few days
the center of attention will be on Eatonville. This coming Saturday,
August 5, will hopefully be remembered as the first of many successful and
growing Art Festivals that will be held in Eatonville." Thirty-nine years
later the festival endures while many other events have fallen by the
wayside. Perhaps a better word for Vince Troccoli would be "visionary."
How it All Began...
The original idea for the festival
sprang from the creative mind of Vince Troccoli who was raised in
New York City's
Vince with his family, wife Anne Marie and three
sons, Joe, John and “Little Vince,” were sent to this area by his company, Aerojet-General,
which had a Tacoma office. Vince worked for Aerojet as an
engineer in California and when he was transferred the family moved to
Clear Lake. No one, including Vince, would know then what an enormous
impact his new life in rural Washington would have on the tiny town of
Vince hadn't lived here very long when
he looked around and thought the town needed some event
to put us on the map, so to
speak. Asked what prompted him to come up with the idea for the festival
Vince answers, “Today I can't recall the exact
situation, thoughts, conversations, etc. that led me to come up with the
art festival. I do remember hearing about a Shakespearian festival in
Oregon and another similar one in northern California. “The
only thing I understood about them was that they consisted of arts,
crafts, entertainment and food.”
Vince adds, “Another thing I recalled
is that there were a significant number of people in
the Eatonville area who were
artists or craftspeople. Art Beaulieu was one person I met who was a
talented and widely known woodcarver. [Art is the man who carved the
magnificent doors to the Methodist Church in Eatonville.] This led me to
think that all these locals should have an outlet, or an event, to show
first person I discussed this with was Terry Van Eaton. He was immediately
enthused about the
idea. We decided to
meet with several Lions Club members at Terry's house.
Les and Dixie Butts [now Walter], Ron Gehring, Terry and I were the
initial group, and it turned out, did most of the work.”
Vince proposed a day-long event at the
town park with artists showing their work, live
entertainment and food booths. The
first date chosen was July 29, but it was discovered the Bellevue art show
was the same day. Art festivals were practically unheard of in those
days. A calendar check showed the
first weekend in August would be best for several reasons. The date
wouldn't conflict with the Morton Logger's Jubilee, Vince contacted a
weather bureau and found the chosen weekend very, very rarely had rain and
no conflict with the Bellevue show.
As the decades passed more and
communities began their
own shows, but little Eatonville was one of the first! Today
are huge lists of similar events in the area, but it took many years for
them to catch up with Eatonville. This festival was an idea ahead of its
Festival 1973 Looking East...
In the beginning, and for many, many
years, the Lions supplied man-made booths. Each year a group of the
would descend on Lion Ray Gribi's forest off the Eatonville
Highway, cut saplings and build the booths. That alone was hard work, then
the men worked even harder building booths from the saplings. Most of the
artists like the charm of the knotty saplings.
After the first show Vince, as chair,
decided the event should be held for two-days. This idea, as with
many of his
suggestions, was met by “nay-sayers” in the club. Sometimes it seemed
there was a struggle for every suggestion, or idea, proposed. But the core
group pushed through time and time again.
When Vince proposed making the
festival a three-day event it seemed like the “opposition” would
kill the festival rather
accept this idea. And to top it off Vince thought breakfast should be
served on Sunday morning so the artist could have a good meal to start the
day. This “thought” was met with a definite “No,” by the people who were
against the festival from the beginning. But somehow Vince, by the sheer
force of his convictions, made it all happen.
So much of what has now become
long-standing tradition was met with resistance by some, but
encouraged by others. After
the first festival Vince thought the festival
needed a queen. So for several years a senior girl from Eatonville High
School was chosen to represent the festival. With Vince the queens
appeared on TV and radio shows, along with print media as she helped
promote Eatonville's art festival.
The first queen,
Debbie McLaughlin, was crowned by Lud
Kramer, then Secretary of State under the Dan Evans
Another year Don Pugnetti, publisher of the Tacoma News Tribune, crowned
the festival queen. Local businesses gave prizes to the queens. This was
also the year a beer garden was added to the event.
Results - First Festival...
Excerpt from a front page
Dispatch story dated July 26, 1973 and titled "Art Festival August 4, 5."
Entertainment was fabulous and
on-going throughout most of the day and evening. Vince
brought in the Tacoma
“wowed the crowd
with their bagpipes. Folk singers, belly dancers, Polynesian dancers and
many more talented groups and individuals also “wowed the crowd” through
One year the Washington State Symphony
Orchestra preformed a “Concert Under the Stars.”
says he doesn't
remember how he got them to travel to Eatonville, but
wistfully explains, “I will never forget seeing all the people sitting on
blankets in the park while this great musical group played their concert.
I would give anything to have a video-tape of that evening.” Of course we
didn't have video cameras in that era.
As art festivals began growing in popularity
more attention was paid to the events by various media. One
year, after Eatonville's show was well-established a reporter for an arts
publication attended the festival. He interviewed artists, visitors and
Vince. And rated the Eatonville festival second best in the Northwest
behind Renton. The reporter told Vince the only thing Renton had over
Eatonville was the setting, which was alongside a river. However, the
participants in Eatonville all loved being on grass and having trees to
enjoy. Most of the other festivals were on asphalt. See the article about
for the group who worked so hard to keep the festival going, “This meant a
lot to us because
we started from point zero. No experience, never been to an art show, no
budget and more than enough nay-sayers.”
In the years
that have passed the Eatonville Art Festival has become entrenched in the
history of our
small town. Everyone
knows the first full weekend in August is the time for
class reunions, garage sales, and loads of fun at the park during the
festival. It's a time to meet with friends you may only see once a year, a
time to be entertained, a time to indulge in delicious food, a time to
enjoy art and a time to simply have a wonderful experience.
has long been the Lions biggest, and most important, fund raiser with the
toward the many good
causes the group supports.
beginning the Art Festival road was often rocky as a new path was being pioneered. But
now the Lions Club's
Annual Art Festival approaches the 40-year-mark, making it the
second longest running tradition in Eatonville with only the Annual
Community Day/May Day celebration being longer.
Thanks Vince, Terry, Les, Ron, Ray and
all the other yea-sayers who kept faith in the festival
and led it
on the way to
becoming one of Eatonville's most important traditions.
to Front Page
"Art enables us to
find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
"Art is the
window to man's soul. Without it, he would never be able to see
beyond his immediate world; nor would the world see the man
Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson
"The artist is
nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
"The aim of every
artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it
fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves
again since it is life."
painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate
~Isaac Bashevis Singer
"The artist's world is
limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few
feet away. It is always on his doorstep."
~ Paul Strand