YORK — Marketfest, the annual fall festival that was distinctly York, will not be returning to the Village Green after members of the York Village Association said they have been unable to recruit enough volunteers to help prepare for and execute the event.
“It was not an easy decision to make, to be honest with you. It was very hard,” said YVA board member Toni DeSoto.
“We just don’t have enough help,” said fellow board member Gloria Gustafson.
Marketfest began a decade ago, initially to keep a festival in the village after Harvestfest, put on by the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce, moved to York Beach. “We were all village business owners at the time, and that was one of our biggest weekends,” said DeSoto.
Up until several years ago, Marketfest was held the same weekend as Harvestfest in October, with First Parish Church and Old York Historical Society holding events in conjunction with it. Two years ago, the YVA board chose to hold the event in late September.
Marketfest itself consisted of a juried craft fair, a food tent with offerings from various town civic, business and religious organizations and large number of booths representing York charitable and nonprofit groups.
Planning for the event began each January and continued with twice monthly meetings until the fall.
“We had to contact all the vendors, all the food vendors, go through site planning, order the tents, arrange the police, all of the above, and then there was advertising, fliers to businesses, go here, go there for funding. It was exhausting," DeSoto said. “And last season there were only five of us, doing 99 percent of everything."
DeSoto, who ran a business called Beneath the Sea in the Realty Building for eight years, and Gustafson, an artist who owned a gallery in the same building for longer than that, have both given up their retail businesses. Other board members include Gustafson’s husband, Gus, as well as Jean Scott, who retired in 2017 as the owner of Bragdon Real Estate. Rounding it out is Carolyn Brennan, owner of the Village Scoop. In past years, Wendy Tapley of Tapley Insurance was also heavily involved, although not a board member.
Too few people stepped up to volunteer, said DeSoto, so when the board met this past January, “we said to ourselves, we’re getting older, most of us were retired. And this is a lot of work.”
They said they reached out to several groups to see if they wanted to take over the event, particularly the church and Old York, but were told those organizations, too, are spread thin. Certainly, that’s true of Old York, said Director Joel Lefever.
“We don’t have the staff to coordinate this, and it’s really outside our mission,” he said. “It’s a very nice community event, but it’s a balancing act when you have a small staff and you’re looking at that kind of time commitment.”
Gloria Gustafson said she will miss Marketfest. “It’s like cutting off part of our arm, we were so involved in this,” she said. “The vendors are still trying to book and we have to turn them away.”
Gus Gustafson said every cent the YVA raised after expenses went into the community, to organizations like York Community Service Association and End 68 Hours of Hunger. In addition, YVA provided a scholarship each year. He said YVA still has some money and will continue as an organization until all the funds are spent.
All three said it’s been a great run and they will be sorry to see Marketfest end – especially since it was very York-centric, and became an annual event that drew so many local residents. “We’re going to have withdrawals, I’m sure,” said DeSoto. “But it’s time.”