From a simple question posed in a weekly newspaper column, one of Muskoka’s most popular festivals was born.
The Festival is the Muskoka Arts and Crafts (MAC) Summer Show, which runs July 15, 16 and 17 at Annie Williams Park in Bracebridge, and the question was this:
“What would you think of having an arts and crafts sale during the summer when visitors are looking for something to take home to remind them of their holiday? Properly organized, this could develop into an annual highlight of the summer season.” – Betty Reid, Bracebridge librarian, 1963.
Reid posed the question in her Library Corner column in the Bracebridge Gazette, and it did not receive perhaps the response she had been hoping for.
“No one actually responded to that column and it took a little while to get going,” said Elene Freer, the former organizer of the show, speaking last year.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm from the public, meetings were held and a committee was formed to organize the first-ever summer show.
The show was set for August 16 and 17, 1963 at Memorial Park in downtown Bracebridge. The entry fee was one dollar and artists were invited to enter their work. The organizers had received only one application two weeks before the show was to open, said Freer. Nonetheless, the committee continued their work and the entries began to arrive.
In the end an estimated 3,000 people attended the show to view the work of 50 artists. The show was considered a tourism, cultural and financial success. Ten years later, when the Summer Show outgrew Memorial Park, it relocated to Annie Williams Memorial Park in Bracebridge where it remains to this day.
These days, the show is one of the best-attended weekend events in all of Muskoka. The show typically sees around 18,000 and 20,000 attendees viewing the work of 200 artists. This show has also now grown to feature music, food and beverages.
You can find out more and purchase tickets on the MAC website at www.muskokaartsandcrafts.com
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