As Sunday, Aug. 24, approaches, don’t be alarmed if you see two people at Pack Square Park taking tape measures to sidewalks and other structures. It’s just Big Love Festival co-organizers Brandy Bourne and Justin Rabuck ensuring that their event is meeting safety and venue guidelines.
Now in its fourth year, Big Love evolved out of ever-increasing requests from non-art/craft independent organizations and businesses that hoped to be involved in The Big Crafty — Bourne and Rabuck’s biannual celebration of handmade commerce. Setting aside The Big Crafty’s coveted spots for artists and craftspeople, the organizers wanted to highlight and celebrate these additional local ventures in a similarly large setting.
“We had done this to some extent in the past through partnerships and cross-promotion, but we saw an opportunity for a big-tent event — a community-positive, family-friendly party that represents and affirms the independent, bootstrap ethic that is so much of what makes Asheville special,” says Bourne.
The 2014 Big Love features more than 150 independent businesses and community organizations, and as with The Big Crafty and The Big Day, the organizers’ springtime indie wedding and celebrations fair, strong interest has yielded a waiting list in case those selected don’t confirm in time or have a sudden change of plans. “We always have people writing to tell us that they are available even the morning of the event or the night before, and we make special note of those and often call those people to fill last-minute cancellations,” Bourne says.
The application for Big Love essentially offers interested parties the chance to present a portfolio of their work. The high number of jewelers and potters applying for spaces makes those categories particularly competitive, and in guiding their selections, Bourne and Rabuck look for a broad representation of types of businesses and services available in the Asheville area. “In general, we are looking for work that is abuzz with creative energy, work that is surprising and inspiring and done with a full heart — and that applies to artists and crafters as well as other entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations,” Bourne says.
She and Rabuck try to highlight different organizations, businesses and performers each year, in addition to taking on new partners — all of which Bourne says “adds richness and variety to the community of organizers and participants.”
This year, the social organization Date My City will have a large presence, promoting an inclusive, culturally diverse community, and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy will also play a significant role. “They are at the root of what this community stands for,” Rabuck says. “The No. 1 love of Asheville is the surroundings that are largely kept intact and preserved by SAHC. They are the ones who literally considered local first.”
Community radio station AshevilleFM advises Rabuck and Bourne in the event’s music selection, and local citizens also offer suggestions. Floating Action, Joshua Carpenter and the Natural Causes, Drunken Prayer, Free Radio, Coconut Cake and Chikomo Marimba are among this year’s performers. “The music, food and beer are locally crafted products as well. We love the idea that the whole experience is the fruit of the labor of individuals here in the community,” Rabuck says.
Food offerings will include Gypsy Queen Cuisine, No Evil Foods, The Lowdown, El Kimchi, Melt Your Heart, The Hop, CocoBacon and MacDaddy’s Lemonade. Highland Brewing Co. created an official Big Love beer in 2013, and though the organizers say nothing of that scope is planned for this year, that doesn’t stop many of the food and craft vendors from taking inspiration from the event and having Big Love-themed products to offer. “Those are usually a nice surprise to us,” Rabuck says.
WHAT: Big Love, loveasheville.org
WHERE: Pack Square Park
WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 24, 1-8 p.m. Free