There were several premieres in 1972 — The Poseidon Adventure in theaters, The Waltons on televisions, and The Eatonville Art Festival in Eatonville.
Art festivals are common today, but that wasn’t the case 40 years ago. In 1972, Vince Troccoli, probably best known as the past publisher of the Dispatch, and Terry Van Eaton got together to try to create a unique art event in Eatonville.
“We decided to meet with several Lions Club members at Terry’s house,” says Vince in an interview with EatonvilleNews. That initial group included Les and Dixie Butts [now Walter], Ron Gehring, in addition to Terry and Vince.
“The art festival started as a Lions’ Club project to help third world countries,” says Terry. “The artists in those countries would send us their artwork and crafts and we intended to sell them at the art festival. But that didn’t work that well and we made it an arts and crafts fair.”
Not everyone around town thought an art festival would make it. But that didn’t deter this group. Their enthusiasm and faith in the project got the event up and running.
In the early years the Lion’s club members made the booths. Dixie recalls going out to Lion Ray Gribi’s land and cutting poles to build the booths.
“That alone was hard work,” says Dixie. “Then the men worked even harder building booths from the saplings. Most of the artists liked the charm.”
The festival evolved over time. For a few years there was a “festival queen”. And there has been every kind of entertainment — from belly dancers and folk singers to kid acts and bagpipes.
One year the Washington State Symphony Orchestra preformed under the stars.
Just a few days before the 1972 Festival the Dispatch reported that the Eatonville Lions Club had written hundreds of letters and made numerous calls to put the festival together and were expecting over 50 artists displaying over 500 pieces of art.
The paper also ran these optimistic, and prophetic, words. “This coming Saturday, August 5, will hopefully be remembered as the first of many successful and growing Art Festivals that will be held in Eatonville.”