SCITUATE - It might feel like a stretch finding a connection between a sugary doughboy, and a college scholarship.
But the analogies exist as surely as organizers of the annual Scituate Art Festival cross their fingers and hope for good weather over Columbus Day weekend when they schedule the annual event.
Good weather spells a hefty crowd, which leads to greater profits in food sales to turn back into funding scholarships and other helping hand projects that are Scituate-based. It also
means greater numbers of festival-goers to buy raffle tickets and to consider purchasing the original artwork and craft items on display, or antiques, and sales make for happy artists and
dealers who will likely return next year to pay the application fee to sell their work.
The Scituate Art Festival "is so many different things to so many different people," said
committee member Sheila Durfee, a longtime volunteer who now oversees dozens of grant applications submitted to the committee each year.
Grants are generated from artist application fees, a raffle and from a percentage of food sold by nonprofits. After festival expenses the generated profit goes to support community
organizations, like the Scituate Health Alliance, the Scituate Scholarship Foundation, or the Scituate Food Pantry.
The massive three-day event takes place every year, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, during the long Columbus Day Weekend in and around the Village Green, on Route 116, North Scituate.
At the centerpiece of the festival is the structure which quietly inspired the event to begin with back in 1967: The 1831 Scituate Congregational Church which sits back from the corner
of Silk Lane and Route 116, keeping company with war memorials out front, and a cemetery in back. But lacking regular and consistent church services for several decades, and a dedicated
guardian, the church was showing its age back in the 1960s.
"People felt it needed to be kept away from disrepair," said Lil Zarli, a founding member of the
festival committee who still volunteers. "That building is an identifying landmark of Scituate and we felt we should take care of it."
So local citizens and artists decided to raise money through an art festival, starting out with a dozen artists, and a food vendor or two, and growing into today's mix of more than 200 artists,
crafts people and antique dealers who show and sell their work over the three days, said committee chairman, Christopher S. Caluori, who has been involved for the past 18 years, and chairman for four.
"It started out as a very, very small art festival," he said, and though it has grown - held in
heat, rain and snow - he stresses that strict guidelines were long ago established in terms of the quality of participating artists.
"It's a juried show," he said.
And though the artists come from all over the country, they have to indeed be the artist or the craft person who created the piece, he said, if they want to display their work within the
Scituate Art Festival's central area on Route 116, which stretches from Silk Lane to the Community House and the area just opposite it on the Village Green. Vendors and artists
outside of these areas are licensed by the town he said, but they are not subjected to the Scituate Art Festival committee's juried process.
Profits in the past four decades, after bills such as $10,000 for trash pick-up and $4,500 for port-a-johns, amount to thousands of dollars in support for town groups and projects, not the
least of which is the continued restoration of the 1831 church, which is often rented for various events, offering, too a picture postcard backdrop to the center of town.
Inside the old Congregational Church, the Scituate Art Festival's annual raffle of donated artwork generates money for the upkeep of the church and for the grants, said Durfee, and in
the process, does something more:
"The raffle is a lot of fun for a lot of people, some who might not be able to afford to buy a
piece of art," but at three raffle tickets for $1, the possibility is kept alive.
Opening the church shows off the interior of the building which is on the National Register of
Durfee said upkeep is costly with $70,000 spent to paint the building, which is owned by the town, over two years. The Art Festival Committee reimbursed the town.
The church looks great, but, "The last few years we have not given out anywhere near the amount of grant money as we had in
the past because we had some huge bills with the church. But we saw this coming," she said, and the committee might continue
to award a lower number of grants while the church fund is restored. Grant recipients, nevertheless, are grateful.
John Marchant, president of grant recipient Scituate Health Alliance, which provides local, accessible, affordable health and
dental care to town residents said, "Grant money goes directly into the program which helps people in town who are low income
or don't have health insurance, people who lost their jobs because of the recession, or students, or seniors who don't have dental insurance."
Elaine Birrell, founder of Hands That Heal, the Scituate group she formed in 2006, said, "We are so grateful to the Scituate Art
Festival for the grants that they have given us so that we can continue to help the elderly and the needy care for their animals.
"In the past year, the requests for help for both food and vet care has increased 100 fold while because of the economy, the donations to Hands that Heal has decreased as it has for other agencies."
Durfee said grants are given to organizations that benefit the town of Scituate. The entire committee of about 40 cast votes in the process. There are always disappointments, Durfee said.
"But everyone works on it and everyone gets to decide," she said. "People come to us in good faith and we are very serious about it."
The estimated 100,000 people who descend upon a usually quiet North Scituate Center each October might not realize that
money spent on a hot dog can in turn provide summer reading opportunities for children at the local library, or books for high school students going off to college.
The festival is a lot of work, Durfee said, from the meetings held in the dead of winter to the coordination of volunteers and
ground crews who respond to everything from collapsed tents to replacing toilet tissue in the port-a-johns. Some volunteers
take vacations from their paid jobs to work at the festival, "and an awful lot gets done by people from home," Durfee said,
pointing out the necessary coordination which seems to involve a large percentage of residents.
"It becomes part of children's lives in this town."
"It's really multi-dimensional," she said, pointing out various Art Festival related opportunities for churches and others in the area
to benefit from it, be it the 32nd annual turkey supper planned by the Trinity Episcopal Church, 251 Danielson Pike, to be held
on Sunday from 3 to 7:30 p.m., or fees collected for parking offered at various locations, "in addition to the fact that the artists are earning a living," said Durfee.
Apart from providing an autumn destination for area residents, who perhaps piggyback it by stopping at a local apple orchard to
pick apples or buy a pumpkin, the festival, benefits many aspects of life in Scituate.
"All the profits go back into the community itself," Caluori said. "That's the number one thing we do."
For more information about the Scituate Art Festival, check