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While the community shoulders the blow, that yet another long standing tradition has fallen victim to COVID-19, organizers of the Chiaha Harvest Fair are understandably thrilled to bring a solution to its dedicated fans and artisans alike. “While the decision to postpone the fair was difficult there is no question that it was the right one to make,” says Monica Sheppard, Co-executive director of the event. For 55 years the fair has catered to the community and supported art education. This year, a new Chiaha marketplace will take shape online offering more than a place to buy the wares often seen at the fair; the new Facebook marketplace offers a forum for the artists to connect with their buyers and the community a gateway to seek out local artists and support their trade. You can visit their marketplace at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3405102759555340

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Several factors were considered in the postponement of Chiaha. The Guild board made the decision last year to move the fair to the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds. Sheppard explains, “For the last three years, Chiaha ran into wet weather. Ridge Ferry Park, gets saturated quick. Mud became a relentless adversary for visitors, artisans, and vendors a like. The strategy to move the fair, obviously required a larger investment in advertising to ensure people knew where to find us, we’ve been at Ridge Ferry Park since 2002. In consideration of the many challenges of Covid-19 and health guidelines, and the knowledge that many of the regular patrons would opt to stay home, the board decided it was best to wait.” With renewed vigor Sheppard exclaims, “The good news is that we have longer to prepare to deliver an incredible fair at the new location in 2021, and we have some big ideas in the works!”

In the meantime, Sheppard and Co-Executive Director, Andi Beyer, are reaching out to artists and craftsmen of the fair in years past. They have something truly amazing up their sleeves. “We are creating a platform that enables the artists and craftsmen to do more than simply sell their goods over the span of a weekend. We want to build a network that connects the community to the local artists year-round. People will be able to seek out their favorite artists, engage with them, and support their trades.” explains Sheppard. The artist community has suffered greatly in this pandemic; many losing exposure and a venue to sell their work. Ryan Smith, local photographer, shares his thoughts, “While I understand why they chose to postpone the show, and I think it was the right decision; I do feel disappointed. Chiaha was my favorite [show] of the year. I love seeing the community and sharing my photographs. I think what the organizers are doing with the online market is great. Chiaha has a huge Facebook following, opening up this platform will help give all the artists the support they need to sell their work and to reach a much broader audience than they can do on their own. I look forward to be a part of the platform myself.”

Look toward social media this September, for a new way to experience the wonder brought by Chiaha. Sheppard urges, “This is the time, as a consumer, to seek out your products. Find your favorite artists and discover more. There is someone out there creating your stuff that can use your support.”

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