Sausalito Art Festival on hiatus after 67 years

After almost seven decades, one of the Bay Area's oldest and most respected festivals will not return next year— possibly never. It may be that the 67-year-old Sausalito Art Festival may have run its course or that the Bay Area is getting a case of festival fatigue. 

Legendary environmental artist George Sumner displayed his art for a half-century at the festival until he semi-retired last year. The Sausalito Art Festival earned its right as one of the finest shows in the world. Sumner said, "That's no exaggeration." He said for the last two decades, the Sausalito Art Festival has consistently been rated as the number one art festival on the West Coast. 

But now, the organizers are putting the festival on hiatus because they say it loses too much money. "It takes a village for the Sausalito Art Festival to really be there and that village isn't just about the artists," said Sumner's business manager and wife Donnalei.

A lack of enough volunteers as well as high production costs, steep security costs and skyrocketing live musical costs, a big attraction, have put the festival in the red. On the other end, the entry fee for artists to display their works has gone up too. 

"Price has become a factor, but there's still an unlimited amount of artists out there that are begging to try to get in the quality this show offers," said artist Sumner. 

"Monies that were made from it sometimes could have been more than 50 percent for us per year," said Sumner's wife Donnalei. 

"I'm disappointed in what the mayor had to say, reading the paper the other day about it's not a big deal, it's only one weekend a year. It won't hurt our economy here in town," he said. 

Who will be hurt are as many as 20 nonprofits that benefit from concession booths they run during the art festival. "The nonprofits really support the food end of it," said nonprofit group volunteer Johnny Scopazzi. "They make their money. That's one of their biggest fundraisers of the year." 

But many of the groups who've helped make the festival a success are aging or no longer around to cater to the decidedly older crowd that has the money to pay the $30 admission fee and buy the art on display. 

If the festival returns in the future, it will surely either be smaller and less expensive or far bigger which always costs a lot more.