Music and art fill the gorge

G ently nestled almost within the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve lies the Village of Clifton, with a serene beauty of landscape that takes your breath away. Such beauty sets the stage for the 7th Annual Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival, Friday, Aug. 24 and Saturday Aug. 25. The festival and village have a […]

Clifton gears up for its annual festival


Dozens of vendors will offer visitors art, crafts, treats, and much more.

By Christy Lynne Trotter

Gently nestled almost within the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve lies the Village of Clifton, with a serene beauty of landscape that takes your breath away. Such beauty sets the stage for the 7th Annual Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival, Friday, Aug. 24 and Saturday Aug. 25.

The festival and village have a longstanding relationship. According to Clifton locals, Sue Chasnov, Paula Lazorski, and Donna Huckleba, the festival began in 1970 and was called Clifton Days with Old Weird Harold. Held in the parking lot of what is now known as Jerry’s Country Corner on the corner of State Routes 72 and 343, Harold Stancliff, the owner at the time, and his parents cooked apple butter and served sausage sandwiches. Later, they made bean soup and crowned a Bean Queen. Huckleba, wife of Jerry, the current owner of Jerry’s Country Corner, was the first Bean Queen, and Lazorski (music coordinator for the festival for the last two years) was the second Bean Queen.

The festival grew and moved to the schoolyard in 1973. Eventually, The Old Timers organization formed and the festival became known as Old Clifton Days. The Old Timers became a rather large group, so in 1989, they moved to Xenia (where they now have The Old Timers Day Festival). Clifton continued having their own festival, but to bring a fresher face to it, in 2012, it transitioned into the present day Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival. It has grown to offer a variety of quality music and art, plenty of vendors, and lots of demonstrations.

The village expects a few thousand people in attendance. “We’re planning that many, maybe more, if we get enough musicians that have a following,” Chasnov hopes. And they’re trying new things this year, like a cruise-in, to interest more people.

Chasnov, the village’s clerk-treasurer, organizes the event along with a special projects committee. “It’s not an official committee that has a list of members,” she notes. Whoever wants to get involved with any of the projects in the village can. As for the festival, Chasnov says they begin planning in February. That’s when they have their first meeting and she sends out applications to repeat and potential new vendors. There are over 60 vendors slated for this year, but Chasnov expects more. “I allow them to come in right up to the event. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have at least 70.”

Many of the vendors will be selling art, one of the appeals of the festival. They are trying to move towards having even more fine art, Chasnov says. “In our layout, we try to separate the quality art from the retailers, so if someone wants to see the quality art, they can go to one big section of the festival.” She also adds that the festival will have a local artisans booth, which will feature mostly Clifton and Yellow Springs artists, and Chasnov hopes to get a potter this year for pottery demonstrations.

“We have a couple of interesting vendors who demonstrate,” Chasnov adds. “One of them is the chainsaw carver, which people really rave about. If you see pictures of his work, it’s really great. He works on things mostly throughout the day so you can watch him.”

Soul Fire Tribe performers always bring the heat.

Chasnov further notes “This year, between the different main acts, there’s going to be demonstrations at the center of town with some interesting dancers.” Like Soul Fire Tribe, who has been at the festival before. “They are really good,” she says.

Other dance groups are scheduled to appear, including the Dayton Celtic Academy and Cardinal Squares.

Another appeal to the festival is the music groups they have booked. “We try to get quality groups and groups who have big followings here, so I think they would appeal to other people,” Chasnov explains. Like Eric Jerardi, who will be playing Friday night from 9 to 11 p.m. Chasnov and Lazorski note that the festival entertainment committee first contacted Jerardi through mutual band acquaintances three years ago, and the last two years, he contacted them to play because he loves the festival.

Many other music groups will make an appearance, including Blue Moon Soup, The Hoppers, Sawmill Ridge Bluegrass, Scarecrow Sideshow, and others.

The festival will also have a kids’ area, sponsored by Southgate Baptist Church, which will have face painting, story time, contests, and other activities. A cruise-in will be held on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., and for beer lovers, the beer tent opens at 5 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday.

“I think it will be a fun time, with good food too,” Chasnov says. When hunger strikes, look for the variety of food vendors, including Christian Brothers Meat Co., Young’s on the Moove, and more to ease your hunger pangs.

For a list of vendors and a complete schedule and short bios of musicians and demonstrators, visit villageofclifton.com/festival-information. Festival-goers are encouraged to park at the Clifton Mill or at the Clifton United Presbyterian Church.

The Clifton Gorge Music and Arts Festival takes place Friday, Aug. 24 from 4 to 11 p.m. and Saturday Aug. 25 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the Village of Clifton, State Route 343, with free admission. For more information, please call Sue Chasnov at 937.767.1767 or visit online at villageofclifton.com/festival-information.

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About Christy Lynne Trotter

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