There was a time when it seemed the Easton Riverside Festival of the Arts would not be celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Left without a chairperson and scrambling to find a way to keep their event going, organizers feared their beloved event had seen its final days.
Not only will the festival return for two days of art and music along the banks of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers, but organizers say this year's celebration is arguably bigger and better than it ever has been.
"There are so many things going on you can be a part of. I'm really excited about how it's turning out," said chairwoman Colleen Heller, who took over the position in 2015. (The festival, which was first held in 1997, is a function of the Arts Community of Easton.) "I think I have a little piece of myself in every single aspect of this festival. We've been working diligently since December."
More than 60 fine art and fine art craft artists will be on hand Saturday and Sunday at Riverside and Scott parks. The popular Plein Air (or "open air") art contest is also back, along with a juried art tent. The winning piece for the Plein Air contest will be announced 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The remaining three finalists' pieces will then be rolled into the juried art show, with the winners being announced 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Prize money for this year's contests totals $4,000.
Contestants can enter the Plein Air contest up to the start of the festival. Cost is $30 to enter.
Additionally, there will be children's art activities, face-painting, dance and theater performances, food vendors and various workshops and demonstrations, including glassblowing and mosaic painting. The final round of "Cupcake Wars" is set for Sunday.
"I'm trying to create a feeling," Heller said. "A feeling of acceptability, a feeling of inspiration, a feeling of accessibility."
Fellow organizer Ellen Shaughnessy said committee members wanted to make the event an extra special occasion. "We have some pretty exciting people in store," she said.
There is also a greater emphasis on live music this year, Shaughnessy noted. Scheduled performers include Harakal Duo, Blue Heart's Revelry, Grateful Dead tribute IBD Band, Acoustic Kitty Project, Heidi Ott, Soul Folks and Serene Green.
Organizers are also harnessing the power of social media to engage, and entice, festival goers through an online photo contest. Using the hashtag #EastonPleinAir and tagging @EastonRiversideFest, attendees are encouraged to snap photos during the festival. The recipient of the winning photo will walk away with a $50 Downtown Easton gift card.
"(The festival) brings a lot of people into town who have never been here," Shaughnessy said. "It's a great place to start some holiday shopping. It's open for everyone and it's about bringing everyone together to celebrate the beautiful (Easton) riverside."
Easton Riverside Festival of the Arts will be held 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, at Riverside and Scott Parks off of Larry Holmes Drive in Easton. Admission is free. eastonriversidefest.com