Brick-and-mortar art festival livens up Williamston alley

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Going back to its roots, Williamston had its first inaugural Alleyfest which included musicians, artists and glassblowers, creating an old-fashioned festival reminiscent of the antique shops littering Williamston’s main drag.

The festival was spearheaded by founder Will Long and his partner and co-founder, Matt Mulford. This was a way that Williamston could bring back its brick-and-mortar history. Williamston is known for its antique shops, however, the downtown area now has four vacant buildings and residents are becoming worried Long said.

It’s great for all of our businesses that are downtown and it gives our residents that live in town, something to do,” Tammy Gilroy, Williamston mayor, said. “It brings in people from outside of our community into our downtown area.”

The artists ranged in craft from glass blowers, a popcorn maker or even a soap maker. One of the goals was to make this event as family friendly as possible, Long said. There was a bounce house, a mini hay maze and goats for the kids.

One of the vendors was Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who owns Happy Camper Soap. Her inventory includes shampoo bars, lotion bars, standard soap, facial wash bars and some specifically for beards as well. Happy Camper Soap has a presence on Facebook and Etsy.

I started making soap about 11 years ago, making it for friends and family and then it just started to snowball and I opened my business a year ago,” Fitzpatrick said. “I heard about it [Alleyfest] from the studio shop, the owner named Will, and he told me that a group of artisans would be participating in Alleyfest and I wanted to get involved.”

Other than soap, there were a few food vendors— Mexican food, Ellie’s Country Kitchen and a kettle corn stand. The kettle corn stand also has a spot at the Williamston Farmers Market. Josh Glew is the kettle corn stand owner and his goal of working Alleyfest was “to have fun.”

The alley behind Ellie’s’ Country Kitchen was already bustling with people and vendors by 11:30 a.m. and the event started at 10 a.m. Long had an initial high and low goal for the attendance of Alleyfest. His low goal was 100 and his high goal was 1000. Long had nearly reached his low goal at 11:30 a.m. with roughly 75 people in attendance.

As for the musical portion of the fest, the variety was noticeable. There was everything from a beatboxer to a man and his guitar. Everything was geared to being family friendly so all of the music was appropriate and if a child needed a calm sensory place, the goat pen was it. The Jubilee Farms had a sensory stand set up for kids involving seeds and squishy foam with beads inside.

The main thing is just trying to get people downtown,” Mulford said. “We’re just trying to get more attention and more interest in getting people from Okemos and Haslett and East Lansing, places that are really nearby, but they don’t always make it to Williamston.”

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