Though Marshall’s Blannahassett Island teems with Madison County history, some of its most distinguishing features are still being realized. The sixth annual Art on the Island, one of Marshall’s most memorable and beloved festivals, will bring forth all its treasures—a broad swath of musicians, artisans, award-winning local chefs and others—on Saturday, September 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., across the French Broad River from Main Street in downtown Marshall.
“It’s one of the times that we, as a town, hold something that draws people to the island,” says Connie Molland, an organizer for the festival who also sells her original woodwork. Instead of larger festivals that block off main thoroughfares, the connection between artist and patron is central. “People aren’t in a hurry here,” she says. “They get to walk around, hang out in the shade, wade in the river and talk to the artists.”
Sol Rhythms headlines the retinue of bands, which includes the Madison County Junior Appalachian Musicians and the Madison County High School and Middle School bands. Music touches part of the festival’s vast appeal. Tennessee mountain author and poet Christy Tillery French will be available with copies of her latest works and anthologies. Basket makers, jewelry craftspersons, metal artists and many others share and sell their work on the Island. A picnic pavilion, playground and other attractions ensure a fun, comfortable space for all age groups.
The event was formerly known as Mad(ison) on Main, and occurred on Main Street in Marshall, where the regionally famous Sweet Monkey Café and Bakery resides, and continues to offer its goods this year. Yet Blannahassett’s idyllic charms proved an irresistible alternative, and Art on the Island was born. Even with this shift, however, “people still go to Main Street who’ve never been to Marshall before,” Molland says. “It’s just an enjoyable, super-friendly family affair.”
Raku ceramacist, watercolorist and teacher Katherine Graham has been involved with the festival all six years. “My favorite thing about this event is seeing old friends,” she says. “I love getting to know new customers and learning new things from other artists. I always make great and lasting connections with people.”
Blannahassett Island’s mountainous location is a central reason for her reappearance. “The Appalachian mountains are still one of the most beautiful places on earth,” she says. “The mountains, rivers, creeks and islands definitely influence my work.”
The sixth annual Art on the Island takes place on Blannahassett Island, off Baileys Branch Road and Blannahassett Island Road, and is entirely free and open to all ages. For more information, call 828.649.1301 or visit madisoncountyarts.com.