End of an Era
After 43 years, Powers’ festival is no more
by Sarah Fay Campbell
For the first time in 43 years, there won’t be a festival at Power’s Crossroads on Labor Day Weekend.
The Powers’ Crossroads Country Fair and Arts Festival, shortened in recent years to “The Powers’ Festival,” began in 1971. It was a major attraction in the early years, and was a unique experience that drew visitors and artists from all over the country.
“It was quite an adventure back then,” said Reed Lewis, who got involved in the beginning as an art major in college. “It was an incredible show. It was sought after. It was considered to be the best show in the country.
“We had 26 school buses running non-stop,” shuttling people from parking lots in pastures “four or five miles away.”
“The traffic actually stopped on 85 South. It took some people two or three hours to get there from I-85,” Lewis said.
As time wore on, more and more high-end arts and crafts festivals were created, and attendance at Powers’ slowly diminished, as did the number of participating artists.
The festival was founded by local artist Tom Powers, on his family’s property straddling the Coweta and Heard county lines. A few years later, it was taken over by Coweta Festivals, a group of six (now five) non profit organizations that hosted the festival and shared its profits. They are the Coweta County 4-H, Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, Newnan-Coweta Art Association, Newnan-Coweta Jaycees, and the Pilot Club.
In late 2011, the Coweta Festivals board narrowly voted not to hold the festival in 2012. Part of the reason was that Coweta County was requiring the organization to get a special use permit to continue holding the festival.
A few months later, though, with permit in hand, the festival continued. Coweta Festivals entered into a lease agreement with Mark Turnham of Xcessive Sound, and the property was rebranded Powers’ Pavilion. Turnham and his partners hosted two Powers’ Festivals and several other events, but the contract ended last year and it was mutually decided not to renew it.
Coweta Festivals was open to having another group or individual come along to organize the festival, but it hasn’t happened. The group has put together a lease so that the property can be rented to anyone who wants to use it for various events, from weddings and picnics to concerts and festivals.
“Obviously, it is sad to think that it is essentially the end of an era,” said Stephanie Butcher, Coweta Festivals president. “Forty-three years is a long time. But, Coweta Festivals is excited about the new direction that we’re heading in with the property.”
Though the Powers’ Festival has always been the focus of Labor Day Weekend in Coweta, Powers’ Crossroads is bigger than just the festival. The weekend has become the best time of year to hold a yard sale, especially if you live near Franklin Highway. Several local residents rent spaces in their yards, and it’s the biggest weekend of the year for the Franklin Road Flea Market.
There’s also Keith’s Korner, the arts and crafts festival put on by the Keith family that is almost as old as Powers’.
Keith’s Korner began 41 years ago as the family’s yard sale. Located at the corner of Franklin Highway and the Hwy. 34 Bypass, it has grown over the years.
Not having Powers’ “could either make or break us,” said Dewey Keith. “We’re going to try it.”
“A lot of people come here. They seem to enjoy it,” he said. “We don’t make a whole lot of money, but we’re not in it for the money. We’re just in it for the good time.”
They have some vendors who have been with them the entire time and they’ve become friends, said Willene Keith.
She said she’s gotten “calls galore” to see if they were going to be open. So far, “[Powers’ not returning] doesn’t seem like it is going to affect us,” she said.
“I hated to see them go,” she said, adding she hopes something similar will gain steam.
“It was a good thing for Coweta,” said Dewey. “Powers’ Crossroads brought a lot of money to this county.
“We’ll just have to wait and see and hope for the best,” he added. “We’re going to be here and we’ll keep doing it as long as the local people seem to enjoy it.”
Many local organizations and churches sold food through the years at Powers’ Crossroads.
The Newnan-Coweta Humane Society and the Georgia Heartland Humane Society used to take turns manning a booth, selling boiled peanuts and lemonade and talking to people about the problem of homeless pets.
“We usually made a couple of thousand dollars,” said Cindy Leopard of NCHS. “Which helps us spay or neuter hundreds of pets. Not only that, it was just that interaction with the community, it was raising awareness.” For a few years, they were able to do pet adoptions on site, and many exhibitors donated items to be auctioned at the NCHS Fur Ball fundraiser.
Last year, Georgia Heartland didn’t make any money, said Leslie DiNucci. “We had really good years before this last one,” she said. But last year, there were some other booths selling boiled peanuts and “by the time they got to us, people had already bought some. We had a lot of drinks left over and a lot of peanuts left over,” she said. “It was kind of disappointing, because it’s a lot of work.”
Georgia Heartland is having a big yard sale this year, and DiNucci said she didn’t even know the festival wasn’t happening this year until Leopard told her. “I guess after our experience last year, I wasn’t surprised,” she said.
Reed Lewis, a potter, attended one of the very first planning meetings with Tom Powers. He was a resident artist the first year. He helped build the facilities and some of the 600 picnic tables.
“I sold 200 pieces of pottery the first day,” he said.
There were many renowned artists who participated, but as time wore on, other art shows gained in popularity. These days, it costs $3,000 to exhibit at the Yellow Daisy Festival at Stone Mountain, Lewis said. “And people pay it, because it’s a good show.”
He stopped exhibiting his pottery years ago.
For his daughter, Katey, Powers’ has always been a part of her family and of her Labor Day weekend. Her grandfather, Al Lewis, always exhibited his historic carriages and wagons.
“It’s very strange not having it, regardless of what the vendors are and stuff like that. It’s just part of who I am,” she said. “I think it’s sad for those people who are from Newnan or from this area who are used to it being a part of their lifestyle. I would hope in the future someone would pick it back up and do it how it was originally.”
In the past two years, Reed Lewis sold barbecue at Powers’ as a fundraiser for his church. “I just think Powers’ ran its course,” he said. “I think the last two years did more damage” to the integrity of the festival and the interest of the locals than it did good, he said.
It wasn’t because of Turnham. “He got in there and worked and spent hours. I think he’s a really good promoter… I think Mark did an excellent job,” Lewis said. “I don’t think anybody could have done any better.”
But it was painful seeing how far the festival had fallen. With the festival gone, “it’s almost like, OK, we can have closure now. It was already suffering.”
“It’s going to take some healing,” he said. “I still say, the best thing is to leave it alone for four or five years, bring it back and see what happens,” he said. “It’s going to take the right person doing the right thing to make it happen.”