Suzy Wilkinson, 6, and her sister Ella, 3, of Lilburn play with their airplane crafted toys while attending the Lilburn Daze Arts & Crafts Festival at the Lilburn City Park on Saturday. (Staff Photos Brendan Sullivan)
LILBURN — Browsing through crafts and listening to music at Lilburn Daze Saturday, Bobbie Johnson couldn’t help but think of her mother.
“This was her favorite thing to do,” Johnson said of her mother, who died two years ago after a battle with cancer. “This is a tradition, so we can pass it on to my daughter.”
Born and raised in Lilburn, Johnson knows the significance of the festival, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this weekend.
Dating back to the founding of the Lilburn Woman’s Club, the festival has grown from a small bake sale in someone’s basement to a church basement, and then a shopping center. After helping Lilburn open its City Park, the festival has grown in the outdoor venue to more than 200 vendors.
With more than 10,000 people in attendance, it is the club’s largest fundraiser, contributing tens of thousands of dollars to local projects, such as the new community fountain, which was dedicated at the beginning of the festival.
“I would say this year is outstanding,” Gail Zarnik, a past president of the club said of Saturday’s event, held on an especially warm October day.
This year, the club worked to boost the kids zone, adding a popular train to the offerings.
And Jennifer Chappell, who rested as her five kids played Sturday, said it was a fun touch, but pregnant with her sixth child, her favorite part was the food.
“I think I’ve tried everything,” she laughed.
Joy Dunlap said she has taken part in the festival for most of those 40 years, and she loves to run into neighbors while shopping for her grandkids.
“Everything is home-made, and it takes a lot of work, so it’s nice to see what they can do,” Dunlap said of the wares, which include paintings, clothes, pottery, jewelry, toys, candles and other crafts. “It’s very entertaining, and all the people are nice.”
It is that friendly attitude that has Estelle Roberts coming back every year, setting up a tent as “the fudge lady.”
Roberts began serving up her fudge at the local event in 1976, and although she retired from other local festivals, she said she hopes to celebrate her own 40th anniversary at Lilburn Daze in a few years.
“I like it because everybody is real nice to me,” Roberts said, noting that at the beginning she was the only black person at the festival and watched over the years as Lilburn grew into the diverse community it is today.
“I’ve seen a lot of change,” she said. “I’ve seen Lilburn grow, so I enjoy coming.”