The fourth annual event drew large crowds and garnered interest from organizations across the state, said Director Ted Spears.
“Our participation increased twofold,” Spear said. “The festival shows people Sylacauga can be a destination point rather than a place to drive through.”
The Alabama State Council on the Arts, which supports the festival through grants, commended the city for its efforts to promote the arts.
“The fourth annual Magic of Marble Festival continues to put Sylacauga and our state in a positive light on the national and international stage, attracting more business and industry to the area,” said Barbara Reed, ASCA public information officer. “The sculptors demonstrating their skills allows for an exchange of ideas and methods that will be far reaching.”
The festival, which concludes today with a Nemak 5K run and the scavenger hunt awards, consisted of marble quarry tours, sculptor receptions, scavenger hunts, a visit from a renowned Italian sculptor and a variety of other events.
Spears said the quarry tours to OMYA and Imerys were extremely popular with about 240 participants.
“The tours were wildly successful,” he said. “We had groups from all over come, and in fact, we had to add a few extra tours to accommodate everyone.”
Spears said participants were “blown away.”
“Particularly one group from Tuscaloosa said they were so impressed by the educational aspects of the tour,” Spears said. “We got a great response, and it looks like we will have to add more tours next year.”
Spears said the observation point under construction at Imerys was also a place of interest. The point will be complete near the end of May and will be marketed as a state tourist stop off U.S. 280 by the State Department of Tourism.
The highlight of the festival was a visit from Italian sculptor Renzo Maggi, who is praised in Italy as one of the last remaining sculptors to work completely by hand.
“We ought to have a great deal of pride that such a delightful, genuine artist has visited and worked with Sylacauga marble,” Spears said.
The 18 visiting sculptors at work in Blue Bell Park during the festival enjoyed learning from Maggi. Sculptor David Perrett of Winnipeg, Canada, said Maggi was the greatest element of the festival.
“His level of ability is unparalleled,” Perrett said. “He is truly an expert at what he does.”
Perrett said he also enjoyed the opportunity to work with a group of sculptors.
“There aren’t many of us who do what we do, so we tend to hermit away in our studios, but to have an open dialogue and share techniques has been valuable,” he said.
The sculptors, who each worked on a piece of Sylacauga marble, were also an attraction.
“The community support they received was wonderful,” Spears said. “We were happy to see the interplay between the sculptors and our community members.”
The Marble Mania scavenger hunt was another favorite. Spears said the popularity of the hunt, which asks participants to locate pieces of marble around town, inspired a group of retired teachers to create an entire marble curriculum that will be implemented in Sylacauga City schools.
“What we’ve found is that children are starving for some personalized information and a way in which they can feel like part of history,” Spears said. “They respond in a very positive manner. There’s been a great deal of interest in marble from the schoolchildren.”
Spears said the festival brings about new opportunities every year and is continuously evolving.
“We’re thrilled with how everything went,” he said. “We were able to pack a lot into 10 days, and none of it would have been possible without the interest and help of the City of Sylacauga.”
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.