The gnome guided a boat across the river, and Strange Folk is officially on again. Union Station management confirmed on Thursday afternoon the arts festival will be Sept 26-27.
Since 2005, the Strange Folk Festival featuring arts and craft vendors has been at O’Fallon Community Park. Rumors and blogs began circulating the location change Wednesday evening, but the festival’s website at www.strangefolk.com did not announce the change until Thursday.
“We’re really excited to have it come here,” said Darlene Menietti of the mall’s property management office. She said the St. Louis mall had been working with Autumn Wiggins of the Strange Folk Festival “for a few months.”
The Strange Folk Festival website has information for vendor applications and sponsorships and promises information later about “pay as you go ticketing” to the free event.
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Earlier this year, Wiggins told the O’Fallon Arts Commission that she was quitting the festival. The city looked into continuing it at the park, but announced Wednesday morning it would not host the festival this year.
Wiggins claimed ownership of the festival’s name and branding. The city claimed Wiggins was an employee; Wiggins said she created the festival and its intellectual property was hers alone.
Wiggins did not respond to calls or emails for comment on Thursday.
The parks and recreation director of O’Fallon wished the festival well in its “different atmosphere” of an indoor mall verses “an outdoor park with lots of trees.”
“Good luck if that’s where you want to be, that’s fine. I’d presumed that (Wiggins) had another site located in St. Louis at some place when all this started,” said Mary Jeanne Hutchison, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department, referring to the dispute over the festival’s future.
Menietti said the arts vendors would be both inside and outside the mall. She referred questions about any payments from the festival to the mall to Wiggins.
Hutchison said the city believes it can prove the festival was the city’s property.
“You can prove things and who paid the bills and who budgeted and those types of things ... but something like this to oppose (in court) could possibly cost $50,000 to $100,000” and that money could better serve O’Fallon families by being spent directly on arts programs,” Hutchison said. “The next time we do something, will be much tighter contract.”