Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival

By Lisa Bennett

Photo: Carvaholic’s Pete Conley of Springfield crafts for the Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival photo courtesy of Sue Chasnov


Millions of years ago, gargantuan glaciers bullied their way into the Miami Valley, ripping up bedrock and moving along megalithic boulders like they were child’s marbles. Mammoth gouges were carved into the landscape becoming the riverbeds and gorges we know today.

Clifton Gorge is a fine example of what a spectacular geologic process can create. Replete in dolomite and limestone, the gorge is not only an important resource both for the many benefits dolomite and limestone provide chemically, but also as a petroleum reservoir and wildlife habitat. Today, Clifton Gorge serves as a Registered National Nature Preserve spanning an impressive 268 acres of breathtaking scenery. It is also home to Clifton Mill, one of the oldest grist mills in operation today and, of course, the annual Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival.

Originally started as a bean festival way back in the days before cell phones and microwave ovens, Clifton Gorge Music and Arts festival has a long and rather unique history. It was the brainchild of a few old-timers who got together, hoping to make a little extra money.

The festival was a success and grew substantially, becoming a treasured village tradition. Eventually, it was moved to Xenia, where it enjoyed a modicum of success. But locals in Clifton missed their festival and wanted it back, so it returned as Old Clifton Days. As with any business that moves away, it suffered some losses and eventually, attendance dropped dramatically. “It became too much like a flea market,” says Sue Chasnov, clerk-treasurer for the Village of Clifton, adding, “We changed the focus of it to music and arts.” The change, they hoped, would not only highlight the rich cultural diversity of Clifton that is at the heart of the village but also to draw attention to the wealth of talented artists and musicians in the region, as well.

Organizers also hope to showcase the incredible beauty and rich history Clifton has to offer, allowing it to shine “on the map” of popular vacation destinations. “We’d like it to grow in both size of vendors and participants,” Chasnov says. The objective is to bring back the festival as a successful village tradition that will keep residents and visitors smiling and happy for generations to come. So far, they’re on the right track, with a long list of performers and a brand new concept for theme and vending.

The focus for vendors is now on handcrafted items, local art, and items that are relevant to the region as long as they aren’t “Flea-market” retail items. “We rarely turn anyone away. We’re trying to grow, so we pretty much take everybody as long as it doesn’t conflict with what we’re trying to accomplish,” Chasnov says.

So far, the festival has accomplished quite a bit. From wild, incredibly detailed carvings created with a chain saw of all things to handcrafted jewelry and more, the diverse array of artisans showing off and selling their work is worth the trip alone.

But if art isn’t your thing, the beer tent serving up all sorts of brews right next to where the live music is being performed may be just what you’re looking for. Of course, with drinks come food, and there will be food trucks galore available to tantalize the taste buds. For those who are more visual, there will be live performances by local street performers including Soul Tribe, a crew of lovely and talented fire dancers, in addition to music sets from talented local musicians. From delectable food to entertainment, The Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival is a recipe for a well-deserved day of fun.

The Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival takes place Friday, Aug. 26 from 4–11 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 27 from 10 a.m.–11 p.m. at SR 343 & Clay Streets in Clifton. For more information about parking, lineups, vendors, and more, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lisa Bennett at

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