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After 50 years the Omaha Summer Arts Festival comes to a close

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jun 09, 2024

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The last Omaha Summer Arts Festival took place over the weekend in Aksarben Village with over 130 artists and hundreds of people coming to visit.

  • Since the festival isn't returning, artists like wood carver Greg Macdonald will have to find business elsewhere.
  • Festival organizers tell us this was a difficult decision, but with a growing budget and fund-raising becoming a challenge, this was the right move.
  • "It is bittersweet we hate to have it end and on the other hand, we're thrilled that we've had great success over the years and we're going to end it with great weather and a great festival."

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Paintings, pottery and photography. That's not all you'd find at this year's Omaha Summer Arts Festival where people not only came to shop, they also came to be part of the end of a 50 year Omaha tradition.

"I was an art school dropout just trying different things and I was like; I saw a booth with a Santa Carver in it and people were just buying the heck out of them so I'm going to go try that."

For almost 30 years, Greg Macdonald has been doing cottonwood bark carvings.

"I'm just using the thick bark of dead, cottonwood trees, and we specialize in holidays," he said.

Each year, he and his wife Mell rely on art shows like this to make a living.

"We have studios down at the Hot Shops Art Center and we do a little online like Etsy store type stuff but 90% of our income comes from big art fairs like this," said Macdonald.

Since this festival isn't returning the couple will now have to turn elsewhere for business.

"We’ll have to pick up two shows to make up for this one," he said.

Festival organizers say it was a difficult decision for them to make but with the budget growing each year to put on the event, this year being half a million dollars, raising enough money was becoming a challenge.

"It is bittersweet we hate to have it end and on the other hand, we're thrilled that we've had great success over the years and we're going to end it with great weather and a great festival," said Vic Gutman, the Omaha Summer Arts Festival executive director.

It's yet to be determined if organizers will do a scaled backed event in the future, but if not, they say they hope someone steps up to continue to showcase the arts in Omaha.

"What we hope will happen is with the conclusion with the Omaha summer arts festival not that someone will come and try to re-create it, but maybe develop a whole new arts program,” said Gutman.