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In marking a milestone, the Charles County Arts Alliance is at it again. Artsfest 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the event which began five years after the organization was formed.

“We always intended for the venue to be held throughout Charles County,” said Diane Rausch, one of the event organizers. “We started out at St. Charles in Waldorf when it first opened. We called it “Touch of the Arts in Waldorf.” It was an indoor arts fest. Then we held it at Cobb Island for a number of years. Then we moved to Indian Head. I talked to [the late] Tom Wisner in 2005 and he called that ‘the year of the river.’ He wanted to draw more attention to the plight of the Chesapeake Bay in a positive way through artwork and music. So we called it River Arts Festival and the name stuck. It was held right alongside the Potomac River.”

After several years on Charles County’s western shore, organizers felt that a new venue was needed.

“We felt we needed a change,” said organizer Cindy Johnson. “The artists wanted us to make a change as well. First of all, we need to stress that we love Indian Head. We did some magical things there. But Indian Head is not a destination you’re passing through to get anywhere else. La Plata is much more centralized to the county. The organization felt that our numbers were starting to dwindle. Each year we seemed to lose a little more. Of course, the economy changed and that didn’t help.”

“It really is a test to move it,” Rausch added. “We were hoping our exhibitors and artists would hang with us. As of now, we have the largest number we’ve had over 60.”

This year’s event will be held on the lawn in front of the La Plata Town Hall from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 9 and features a wide variety of entertainment on three stages. The West Lawn Stage will feature the Southern Maryland Jazz Orchestra from 10-11 a.m., followed by the country sonds of the Justin Crenshaw Band from 11.am. to 12:30 p.m. The Steve Potter Band is next from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and after a wearable fashion show, the Flea Bops will take the stage from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

“I heard the Flea Bops at a rockabilly night they held at the Birchmere in Alexandria,” Johnson said. “After the show I asked them, ‘you live where?’ It turned out they were from Bryans Road. I had their CDs. They’re a great rockabilly band and we’re very happy to have them.”

At the Food Court Stage, the event will host The Flute Choir of Southern Maryland from 11 a.m. to noon; the Port Tobacco Players’ Encore Kids from noon to 1 p.m.; Hope You Dance from 2 to 3 p.m. and the Ballet Arts Academy from 3 to 4 p.m.

The East Lawn Stage will feature the Chin Hamaya Taiko - Okinawan Drummers and Dancers from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

“We also have two new events this year,” Rausch noted. “One will be an arts walk that will take place at 9 a.m., where we will walk through La Grange Avenue, retracing the route the 2002 tornado took through the town, and author Martha Lane will be reading from her very clever children’s book, “The Letter E Leaves the Alphabet” on the East Lawn at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

“The arts alliance is for all arts,” she added, “we do the performing arts, but we also include the literary arts as well.”

The day will begin with yoga at 8 a.m. Rausch said the event has more people exhibiting their art and wares than ever before.

“We’ve generally had around 40 [exhibitors] at past events, but this year, even though we imposed a deadline we still had people wanting to come in as late as this morning,” she said.

Attendance for the event has fluctuated over the years, she added. While they drew 1,500 last year, attendance has ranged between 1,000 and 2,000 annually.

“Knock on wood, we’ve never been rained out,” Rausch said. “A year or two we had a late storm and had to end early, but it was the last hour of the event when the crowd thinned out so it really didn’t affect us.”

Rausch added that moving Artsfest to La Plata, while it was an agonizing decision, was in keeping with the Charles County Arts Alliance’s initial vision for the event.

“The concept from the very beginning was to move the event around the county,” she said. “It’s not the Waldorf Arts Alliance, or Cobb Island’s or Indian Heads. It’s the Charles County Arts Alliance.”

“It makes sense to move it to La Plata,” Johnson added. “It’s the most centrally located section of the county. It’s the bull’s eye for Charles County. Plus, the arts alliance is in La Plata and we’ve never held the event in the town where we’re located.”

“We’re very grateful to the town,” Rausch said.

jnorris@somdnews.com

Artsfest 2012Where: 305 Queen Anne St., La Plata

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. June 9

Admission: FreeContact: ArtsFest@CharlesCountyArts.org