The summer's downpours and flash floods prompted a last-minute change of venue for the Commonwheel Artists' 39th Annual Labor Day Weekend Fine Arts and Crafts Festival, but the event did not lose popularity or momentum.

Even with cloudy skies and light drizzle, more than 100 vendors set up booths at Fields Park in Manitou Springs for the three-day festival.

Julia Wright had to make a quick decision Aug. 13 when the festival's usual venue at Manitou Springs Memorial Park was clearly not a viable location for the event.

"There was mud everywhere, and the city said it wasn't possible to hold the festival there, plus it just wasn't a pretty picture," Wright said Sunday. "It was sort of a logistical nightmare, but everyone involved was so amazingly supportive and everyone is happy the festival went on."

The Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and the city's administrators played a key role in keeping the festival alive with an increase in publicity, providing transportation shuttles from the main roadways to the event at 101 El Paso Blvd., and placing signs throughout town pointing the public to the new location.

"Changing the venue, having only two-and-a-half weeks to advertise, reorganizing, it was a lot to take on and I got so much help from all sides," Wright said. "The chamber and our advertisers worked so hard to get the information out, I couldn't have asked for more."

Jewelry artist Donna Spray, from Alto, N.M., has attended the annual festival since 1995 and said she expects to participate for many more years.

"Making the transition to this new location wasn't difficult for me, although clearly pointing the public here has been a bit of a challenge," Spray said. "But people are in good spirits and it's great to see friends and fellow artists."

Fields Park presented its own challenges for the festival, without electrical power and the event's usual vendor layout, adding to the goal of getting as close to being 100 percent waste-free as possible.

"The Commonwheel basement on Canon Avenue was full of mud after the flash floods, and so many of the volunteers that came out to help us clean up pulled together to make the festival happen at Fields Park," Wright said. "In 2012, we were 80 percent waste-free and it means a lot to keep the park clean. This is a beautiful setting."

With the festival's 40th anniversary looming in 2014, Wright was certain new challenges would come, but the milestone excited her. Still, as coordinator for more than 30 years, she didn't want to begin planning for it until this year's event was complete.

"Next year will be huge, but I can't even think about it right now, there's still so much work to be done," Wright said. "I feel successful and happy with the result, this turned out to be a great year after all."

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