Organizers announce end of the Quaker Arts Festival

VILLAGE OF ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) - The Orchard Park Junior Chamber (Jaycees) have announced the cancellation of the Quaker Arts Festival.  According to a letter provided to 7 Eyewitness News, a number of factors contributed to ending the 56-year tradition including a shrinking number of volunteers, increasing costs and the expense involved in providing security due to the "increasing number of horrific events occurring in our country."

The Quaker Arts Festival is one of the largest suburban art festivals in WNY with 50,000 to 75,000 people attending each year during September in the Village of Orchard Park.  The Jaycees have organized the event since 1965.

You can read the Jaycees letter below.

But is the long-running tradition really going to end?  7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly found there is now a determined effort by Orchard Park elected officials and businesses to find some way to save the Quaker Arts Festival for this year and beyond.

Ed Reilly will have more tonight at 5&6.

JAYCEES LETTER TO THE PUBLIC:

Orchard Park Jaycees Quaker Arts Festival Dear Friends,

It is with heavy hearts that we, the Orchard Park Jaycees, announce that 2017 was the final year for the Annual Quaker Arts Festival.

For 56 years we ran the project with such incredible, complete and unwavering support from the Orchard Park Central School District, Town of Orchard Park, Village of Orchard Park and Orchard Park Police Department. They have been tremendous over the years in working with us to coordinate all the logistics of the Quaker Arts Festival. We are forever grateful for their support.

We would not have had such a successful run had it not been for our valued exhibitors, corporate sponsors, Boy Scout troops and other various community organizations, public attendees and business owners. The support and relationship that we have established with our co-sponsors over the years, most recently Bee Publications, has been invaluable and one that we have truly appreciated and cherished. The Festival was a time-honored tradition and one that many looked forward to year after year, including us.

We were proud to have organized the Quaker Arts Festival since 1965 and we have been honored to present such an event to the community of Orchard Park and Western New York. Over the years, we have had many loyal exhibitors participate in our Festival year after year. They started out as exhibitors and then became friends. We have met so many wonderful, talented people whom we have considered a pleasure to welcome into our Festival.

The Orchard Park Jaycees consist of all volunteers. We have no paid employees. We rely on our members, friends, family and other community organization groups to assist us with manpower. That pool of volunteers and membership in community organizations has decreased over the years and we find it harder and harder to secure the manpower needed. The culture of volunteerism is not as readily available as it has been in the past for various reasons.

The Quaker Arts Festival has been the primary fundraiser for the Orchard Park Jaycees since the Orchard Park Presbyterian Church asked us to run it in 1965. When all and said the done, our purpose is the fact that we are a community organization dedicated to contributing to the betterment of our community and profits from the Quaker Arts Festival were invested in programs and projects that benefited the community. Over the years, we have been able to sponsor programs and projects for children, teens, high school students, families and senior citizens. We have enjoyed those programs and projects over the years and will miss our involvement in those events. We were also able to sponsor college scholarships, donations to various charities and community events and programs. If we are not making the necessary profits to fund those projects, programs, donations, etc. we are defeating our purpose as an organization.

This decision was not an easy one. There were several factors that brought us to this difficult decision. The world is changing in so many ways. We have had a decline in exhibitor participation, as well as public attendance, possibly because on-line shopping is so easily available. Although we always had about 30-50 new artists and craftsmen each year, the total number of participants was decreasing for various reasons. We have also lost a good number of vendors to retirement and aging. The weather is always a factor and that too affects our exhibitor registrations and public attendance.

So many aspects of hosting this very large, outdoor event have changed over the years and more specifically within the last few years. As you may suspect, the overall cost of running the Quaker Arts Festival and making it safe for all those involved was becoming a difficult task. The costs for general expenses, food, consignment rentals, publicity and private security personnel have been increasing steadily over the last several years. Those costs alone have increased over the last two years by 24%. It was not difficult for us to predict that these expenses will only increase in the future.

In addition, to run an event such as the Quaker Arts Festival, not only must we feel comfortable running this event, we must also be substantially certain that the event is safe for vendors, patrons and the organizers. Considering the increasing number of horrific events occurring in our country and rising costs, we are no longer able to ensure the welfare and safety of our patrons, vendors and organizers.

We sincerely thank every single person who accepted the responsibility to take on such a large undertaking and donate so much time and money to our event. We as a committee have truly enjoyed working with all of you. We have made many friendships and will miss seeing many of you in the years to come. We wish you all the very best in the future and once again thank you for your participation in the Quaker Arts Festival. We could not have survived for 56 years without your involvement!

Orchard Park Jaycees

Quaker Arts Festival

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