Blackstone Valley Craft and Music Festival returns for a second year

Blackstone Valley Craft and Music Festival returns for a second year

The Tribal Medicine Singers, made up of members of the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe, perform at last year’s Blackstone Valley Craft and Music Festival. This year’s event will feature approximately 40 artisans and vendors and at least a half-dozen local music acts at River Island Art Park on Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15. (Breeze photo by Bill Murphy)

WOONSOCKET – The Blackstone Valley Craft and Music Festival will return for its second annual run this weekend, and organizer Tara Cruz said attendees can expect more of the local artisans and area bands that made last year’s inaugural event a hit with attendees.

The event will take place at River Island Art Park this Saturday, July 14, and Sunday, July 15, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s the second time Cruz, who heads the event as the founder of local craft and vendor group Elite ACE, is coordinating the festival she says combines the best of homemade crafts and music.

“I wanted to bring something in the summertime to Woonsocket,” she told The Breeze. “I do work a lot with the artists, crafters and events in the Blackstone Valley area, so it’s something I wanted to bring for the love of arts and crafts and music. It was kind of like a mesh of all that.”

Last year’s event drew about 50 artisans and vendors and a sizable crowd to World War II Veterans Memorial Park, where visitors could participate in children’s activities and view live craft demonstrations. This year, said Cruz, the festival will feature slightly fewer artisans, about 40, but an increase in the number of musicians after the music side of the event was popular with younger attendees. The lineup includes at least a half-dozen bands and solo artists performing everything from rock to techno to classic hits.

“A lot of our music is very local. We’re getting a lot of the local bands and musicians and it’s all genres of music,” she said. “A lot of our attendance probably is the younger crowd.”

While that younger crowd might not be typical of craft fairs, Cruz said it’s a great way to expose younger generations to some classic artisan trades, especially those that might not make it into the public spotlight. Last year’s event featured wreath-makers and glass-etchers, and this year, a spinner will give an alpaca yarn-making demonstration for the second year in a row.

“I try to incorporate interactive craft exhibits so that they’re coming up and they’re seeing the people actually working on their products,” Cruz said.

The event will also feature local businesses like Craft BMX and skate shop and direct sales merchants, as well as food from Bitchin’ BBQ and other local food trucks. Cruz said she learned a lot during the first year’s event and is looking forward to continuing to improve the crowd experience.

“This year we’re having it at River Island Art Park, because I felt like Veterans Memorial was just a little too large. We’re not like Autumnfest or something like that, we’re just a little smaller,” she said.

Cruz is no stranger to event planning in the Blackstone Valley. She serves on the Autumnfest Steering Committee overseeing the craft and merchant showcase and has been planning events with Elite ACE for two years. Prior to that, she said, she owned a small gift shop and planned craft fairs for her church and other nonprofits. It’s a passion that’s supported by the local volunteers who come out to lend a hand.

“I had a great team of volunteers last year, and I will have another pretty solid team of local community people helping out at the event,” she said, adding the event is still seeking additional volunteers.