MusicMusic Features

Marigold Festival Highlights Winterville’s Budding Artist Community

On Saturday, an annual Winterville tradition will symbolize the town’s developing identity—as a place where artists can work and live. Held every year in Pittard Park, the Marigold Festival typically showcases art, music and food, with proceeds used to beautify the town. Starting this year, the festival will highlight a new cultural center and fund renovation of the Winterville Auditorium.

“It has all come together in the final weeks,” says Dave Cappi, co-executive director of this year’s festival. “It’s going to be one of the best festivals yet.”

As a highlight, the new Winterville Center for Community & Culture—based at the old Winterville High School—will hold facility tours to show off the building that opened earlier this year after sitting dormant. In the center, an art show contains works by 13 local artists.

In addition, the Carter-Coile Country Doctors Museum, once the office of doctors Warren Carter and Frank Coile, will open for the first time in many years for tours. The museum, which is one of the last standing country doctor museums in the country that features artifacts from the late 1800s, was modernized with Marigold Festival funds from previous years.

“We’ve really increased our footprint this year with the new facilities open and looking good,” says Diana Hartle, co-executive director of the festival. “Winterville is poised to be a great and happening community.”

This year’s event includes the addition of Fun City, an area where families can interact around art projects such as leaf rubbing, bubbles and Marigold flowers. The Athens Area Arts Council developed the children’s schedule, which will take place at Front Porch Bookstore.

The music lineup looks promising as well, with most performers from Winterville and Athens. Expect to see Kate Morrissey, Caroline Aiken, Clay Leverett and the Chasers, the Matt Joiner Band, the Grassland String Band, Klezmer Local 42, Rev. Conner Tribble and the Deacons and the Randall Bramblett Band.

A parade will start at Winterville First Baptist Church at 10 a.m., and the Madison County Cruisers Auto Show will take place at the Winterville Train Depot. The Athens Road Runners will hold the 41st Annual Marigold 10K run, the second-oldest 10K race in the state after the Peachtree 10K.

“Winterville has transitioned from a small town to one with a community, which is unusual for little towns these days,” Cappi says. “For many people living here, focusing on the community has created a great sense of ownership.”

Among the fundraisers this year is a silent auction with items donated by local artists. Proceeds will help renovate the 450-seat Winterville Auditorium, which has sat vacant for more than a decade. Funds from this year and next year’s festivals will sponsor the renovation, which will directly influence musicians who need a space to perform. “With that and the cultural center side by side physically, we’re creating more of a haven for artists and their events,” Cappi says. “It’s becoming a reality.”

The Marigold Festival began in 1970 with residents Joan Biles, Sybil Deacon and former mayor Wesley Whitehead envisioning it as a way to boost community spirit and revitalize old buildings that were crumbling. The marigold—Winterville’s official symbol, adopted in 1971—represented versatility, hardiness and friendship. Funds were used to beautify and furnish buildings, including the Athens Regional Library branch in Winterville, the train depot and the park playground.

After more than 30 years of the annual tradition, the festival board of directors discontinued the event after 2002. Then in 2008, former mayor Emily Eisenman and past organizers revived the festival to fund community projects such as the doctor’s museum.

As the new Winterville mayor and an artist himself, Dodd Ferrelle is happy to see the tradition continue, especially to benefit the auditorium renovation. “Our auditorium has been closed for a long time, so this is a great way to put it back into people’s minds,” he says. “That place is near and dear to my heart, and we need to get it renovated.”

The Winterville Arts Council, a new organization created this year, will help raise the funds. When Ferrelle helped to establish the arts council, his goal was to broaden support of local art in the area. “This council may be one of the most important we have in the city because of all the artists who are here,” he says. “They will have a vehicle and a voice to shape what happens in Winterville in the future.”

During his tenure, Ferrelle intends to support more artistic projects and renovations. “Winterville should be a haven for the arts,” he says. “This is no secret—the arts can be a really great partner to a city by generating revenue and attracting residents.”

Before he ran for mayor, Ferrelle noticed the large number of artists who lived in Winterville. As a singer-songwriter, Ferrelle plays in several bands, and his wife Cameron Bliss is a recognized artist whose work has appeared at the Lyndon House and exhibits around Athens and Savannah. “When I ran for mayor, it seemed like every third door I knocked on there was an artist behind it,” he says. “It felt like I could give a voice to what’s already been present in the town and encourage others to enjoy it like we do.”

Ferrelle has served on the Marigold Festival committee in recent years, and this year served in an ex-officio advisory role. This is his last as the music director. “It’ll be strange to let one role go as I grab ahold of the next era as mayor,” he says. “On this one day, everything in Winterville is at its best, and people from outside the city come see everything we have to offer. A lot of people are talking about Winterville, and this gives them the chance to take a peek.”