Despite the forecast, the 111th Arden Fair enjoyed a rain-free afternoon on Saturday, when thousands gathered to enjoy one of the last days of summer in one of Wilmington’s historic communities. With plenty of food, music, rides and exhibitors, the Fair is a cultural experience that is uniquely Arden, an artist’s colony that draws generations of residents back to the village year after year for the annual celebration.
Joel Goldberg, 70, grew up in Arden, and still keeps up with friends from the community. “I haven’t missed an Arden Fair – except maybe once – in my lifetime. It’s such a wonderful community. It’s family. We come here every year like homing pigeons because it’s a reunion.”
Like many fairgoers, Goldberg attended Arden School, the 4-room school house which housed 6 grades of students. “Third and 4th grade shared one room and one teacher, and 5th and 6th grade shared one room and one teacher. It was an amazing, amazing place to grow up and it still is. We went to school together, swam in the creek together and played in Arden Gild Hall together.”
Many of the 9,000 visitors to the fair lived or grew up in Arden. But the oldest fair in the state also attracts visitors from several surrounding communities and over the line in PA.
Trish Tinney, of Wilmington, used to take her children to the fair when they were younger. She returned this year to see what was new and enjoy the experience again, this time with a friend.
“My kids absolutely loved the rides and games and food. And then I didn’t come for a few years. But then I returned because I really liked the music and the food and the entire experience,” she said.
Tinney also enjoyed the live music– eight different bands performed on the main stage in the canopied beer garden – new vendors, and sense of organization that she thinks improved over years past. This year there were 108 craft exhibitors offering jewelry, home decor, food and art. And there were special areas featuring flea market finds, plants and books, and 32 booths offering holistic healing and skin care remedies.
First-timer Patti Shine, also of Wilmington, had a great experience at the fair this year and plans to encourage friends to join her next year. “The crowd that’s here is amazing to me. I love to people watch, everyone is friendly, and you can bring your dogs. We’re just having a great time. It’s a great place to come and wander around.”