The streets of downtown New Bern and the nearby historic district was busy with pedestrians Saturday morning, with the 50th Historic Spring Homes and Garden Tour, the usual bustling Farmers Market throng and the Heritage Plant Sale and free gardens at Tryon Palace.
At the North Carolina History Center across the railroad tracks on South Front Street from the Farmers Market, there was a steady flow of people entering.
They were going to the ninth annual East North Carolina Pottery Festival, featuring the works of more than 40 regional potters and glass artists.
The festival was the idea of Rich Daniels of Pollocksville, who began it on his front lawn with eight potters showing their wares. It moved to locations at the Bell and Hughes Plantations in Jones County during the next few years and continued to grow.
A call came from former Tryon Palace director Philippe Lafargue, who asked if he might want to bring it to New Bern. Daniels, who had previously operated his arts business on Middle Street, jumped at the chance for the more visible venue and a year ago the estimated attendance was about 3,000.
Daniels said that his vision for the festival came from the fact that the focus on pottery in the state has always deservingly been the Seagrove area.
“But, we have so many fine potters here in coastal North Carolina and we needed to showcase them,” he said. The partnership with New Bern’s top tourist attraction has worked well for both sides and the festival is now a staple in what Daniels calls “the best possible weekend in New Bern.” He was proud to note that three well-known potters from Seagrove were at this year’s festival.
Nicole Brooks, special events manager for the Palace, said the pottery festival is a natural fit. “It is a good community event and we have realized that having this in conjunction with the Homes and Gardens as well as our Heritage Plant Sale and Garden Lovers Weekend, people can come and buy a plant and come in here and buy a lovely piece of hand-crafted pottery to put their plant in,” she said. “They are set for the spring.” She said it has become one of the larger public events that the Palace hosts, outside of its own programming. She said events such as the pottery festival also attract many first-time visitors to the Palace, who enjoy this and return later for the full tour.
Daniels said the event has year-round value for the potters as far as visibility and exposure from the public.
Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieHallNBSJ