The renowned Lambertville Shad Festival is hitting the big three-five this year, and organizers are preparing for a party like none before.
The annual Shad Festival Poster Auction represents what is best about a community: a consortium of artists, organized by a business group, coming together to create art and raise enough money to give out approximately $20,000 each year to area high school students going on to higher education in the fine or performing arts.
In 1982, the Shad Festival Poster Auction was the brainchild of noted illustrator and cartoonist Harry Haenigsen. Harry was famous and had come home to Lambertville to live. At the height of his career Harry’s cartoons and illustrations appeared in 600 newspapers and magazines worldwide. Haenigson created such popular comic strips as Simeon Batts, Penny, Our Bill. Among these, Penny, which was created in 1943 and published internationally, was most popular. Penny had her local roots too, legend has it that the inspiration for Penny was Lambertville native Penny Blair.
The festival — being held Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1 — takes over four blocks of downtown Lambertville, filling the streets with artists and specialty vendors. On Sunday, there is an auction of one-of-a-kind posters created by local artists, with all proceeds supporting scholarships for local high school students pursuing a higher education in the arts. In addition, this year will mark the return of a live music stage with bands playing throughout both days.
However, the biggest celebration is being saved for the evening of Saturday, April 30, with a 35th Anniversary Gala and Auction to be held at the Rago Arts Gallery. All proceeds will benefit the scholarship program.
The gala will honor Jim Hamilton, the Lambertville icon who was one of the organizers of the first Shad Festival in 1981, and who continues to be a large part of the City’s culture. Hamilton, a well-known set designer long before opening the eponymous Hamilton’s Grill Room restaurant, played an integral role in restoring Lambertville’s streetscape in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Born in Lambertville, he has called either the City or neighboring New Hope home for his whole life. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, Yale University, and Le Cordon Bleu.
“It’s quite easy to say that Lambertville would not be what it is today if it were not for Jim Hamilton,” said Glenn Davis, president of the Delaware River Towns Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the Shad Festival. “At a time when the town was just an afterthought on the way to New Hope, Jim saw an opportunity for revival. And, more than thirty years later, his vision is as evident as ever.”
The highlight of the evening will be a select auction of Shad Festival posters being commissioned specifically for the event from some of the region’s best-known fine artists.
“We wanted to keep the spirit of the Shad Festival going long into the evening, and we couldn’t think of a better birthday party to throw,” said David Morgan, the Chamber’s executive director. “We invite everyone to come out to celebrate Jim Hamilton and support the young artists who we hope will carry the excitement of Shad Fest forward for another thirty-five years.”
A donation of $25 per person is suggested, and there will be a selection of hors d’ouvres(provided by Marsha Brown creole restaurant) and a cash bar available.
The gala is being co-chaired by Chamber board members Terry Meehan, of The Studio in New Hope, and Jane Wesby, owner of Lambertville’s River Queen Artisans Gallery.
The Shad Festival is presented through the generous sponsorship of the Hunterdon Healthcare System Foundation. The festival originated in 1981 as a means of celebrating the Delaware River’s renewal following passage of the Clean Water Act after years of industrial pollution, and the return of the annual run of American shad (Alosa sapidissima) to the waters off Lambertville.
Featured photo credit: http://2011shadfestposters.blogspot.com/2011/04/daniel-john-gadd-and-anne-kullaf.html