Evolution of the Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts
Originally known as the “Mount Dora Antique show” the annual March event was created in the late 90’s by a handful of business owners. The sole purpose of the event was to draw guests into the Mount Dora,FL business district from the Antique and Classic Boat show held on the shores of Lake Dora on the same weekend.
Today the event is run by Visit Mount Dora, a not for profit group dedicated to “bringing feet on the street” and branding the town through events and marketing.
Visit Mount Dora’s Event coordinator Janet Gamache says, “When I became the Event coordinator in 2013, I knew right away that the spring event needed a lot of work. People referred to it as the “Gems and Junk” show and it was riddled with vendors on blue tarps peddling what appeared to be typical garage sale items. Attendance was low. It needed an overhaul and rebranding to raise the reputation and get attendance up.”
The journey to achieve her vision didn’t happen overnight. Gamache says, “The first few years were a challenge to get the junk out of the event. I wanted to get rid of the ‘Buy Sell’ vendors who appeared to be clearing out their garages and selling used Tupperware and rusty tools as ‘Collectibles’.” It was tough because, antiques and collectibles are by definition ‘Buy/Sell’ and some of the vendors had been there for more than 10 years.”
The first thing Gamache did was to change the name to the “Spring Collectibles and Crafts show” to start the process of adding hand crafters to the event and get away from the word “Antique.” Next, she moved the few true antique dealers that remained to one area and started soliciting artists and hand crafters to set up and support the event. “Buy Sell” vendors were eventually charged a higher fee to discourage them from applying.
The last few years of hard work weeding through the process has paid off. The antique dealers are gone. “Most of the original vendors were nearing retirement. I didn’t kick them out, but I didn’t allow new ones to participate and eventually they just dwindled away to none,” says Gamache.
Today the official name of the event is the “Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts” and selection is a quasi-juried process. Participants are hand selected based on their originality, quality, and scope of work. Fine art is mixed in with practical hand-crafted items. You might see an artist selling beautiful blown glass sculpture next to someone who makes adorable, hand sewn dresses or an exhibitor who turns wood into a pepper mill on the same street. Every item in the event is unique and must be one-of-a kind.
In 2013, the event featured around 40 vendors with tarps and tables filled with antiques and collectibles on the streets of downtown Mount Dora, FL. Today the event features more than 200 fine and fun artists and crafters under white tents.
In 2020, the “Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts” ranked for the first time with **Sunshine Artists Magazines annual list of Top 200 Contemporary/Classic Craft Festivals in America and debuted at #49.
“Just to be placed in the Top 200 would be amazing but to debut in the Top 50?? You know I did a happy dance when I got the news. Being one of Sunshine Artist Magazine’s 200 Best signifies that the artists are happy with our marketing that brings buying crowds to the event. It also fulfills our purpose to bring feet on the streets… not just during the festival but also results in return visits to town when people come to play, shop, dine and stay. It’s perfect synergy” says Gamache.
The Mount Dora Spring Festival of Arts and Crafts is a two-day, open-air event, with historic downtown Mount Dora as a backdrop. Admission is always FREE.