Call to look at Thunderbird Art Show layout falls on deaf ears

By Curtis Riggs | June 18, 2008

CAREFREE – Despite a call from the vice-chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission to form a committee to examine the layout of the Thunderbird Art and Wine Festivals, Mayor Wayne Fulcher said there is no need to look at how the annual events impact the downtown business community.

“The art shows should be about buying art, not people walking around drinking wine,” P&Z Vice-chairman Ron Clarke said at the June 3 Town Council meeting.

When contacted after the meeting, Clarke said, “When Thunderbird comes they block our streets and make it difficult for people to get to the local merchants.”

Fulcher said after Clarke’s comments, he talked to several merchants along with Chamber of Commerce officials who are pleased with the Thunderbird events.

tbird art show“They are very good events not only for the town. They are a very prestigious art show and the merchants also do very well financially because of them.” Fulcher said.
He was referring to a recent poll by a national art magazine, which ranked the Carefree Thunderbird shows as the one of the top fine art shows in the Southwest.

Clarke uses the Sonoran Art League’s Sonoran Festival of Fine Art as an example of an art show that fits into the downtown landscape well. He favors having artist booths set up in the Town Center common area and suggests the parking lot on the north side of the Carefree Town Hall/post office could be used for more booths and display areas.

Town Councilman Bob Gemmill, who serves as liaison to the Carefree business community, said the businesses that do not do well the weekends of Thunderbird shows are service businesses.

“They bring a lot of people into town and help to put Carefree on the map,” he said.
While admitting there is a need to look at how Thunderbird shows are laid out, English Rose Tea Room owner Jo Gemmill said merchants do well the weekends of Thunderbird shows.

Thunderbird Artists owner/ operator Judi Combs said the crowds were good for all three shows this art season. She made the point that there are three shows every season because downtown Carefree merchants asked for more than one show a season because they do well on Thunderbird weekends.

“We want to make sure they work well for everybody, not just Thunderbird Artists,” she said. “The merchants are quite pleased and they are still a big part of it.”

Combs said changes made last year in the layout of the show, which were required by the Arizona Liquor Control Board, worked well and no related changes are anticipated for next year. Increased fencing was put in to ensure art patrons do not leave with glasses of wine. Festival patrons are also prohibited from carrying glasses of wine into restaurants and bars that sell wine.

The first Thunderbird show of the 2008-09 season will be held on Easy Street from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

The other two Thunderbird shows will be in January and March of 2009.

Photo caption: A committee to look at downtown access issues during Thunderbird Art Show weekends will not be formed. Downtown merchants feel the shows help their business and the prestigious art show has given Carefree a good reputation as an arts destination.