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Mayfair brings arts and fun to UCity this Mother's Day weekend

Where in the Charlotte area can you spend the afternoon shopping for arts and crafts from unique vendors, watching performances from some of the best talent the region has to offer and treating the kids to fun activities -- all while enjoying picturesque surroundings? Would you need to brave the traffic and struggle to find parking downtown or trek across the area to Freedom Park or maybe even Lake Norman to attend such an event? Most Charlotteans would be surprised to learn that a festival that provides all of these attractions can be found right in the heart of UCity.

For the third year in a row, University City Events will be presenting a festival lakeside at the Shoppes at University Place. “Mayfair: A Celebration of Arts and Crafts,” will be held Mother’s Day weekend, May 7-8. The festival, which is projected to draw close to 10,000 attendees, will include 100 displays ranging from hand-blown glass and pottery to jewelry and accessories. The event will also feature entertainment from local musicians and dancers, as well as a Kid’s FunZone that includes face painting, sand-art and other fun activities for children of all ages.

“Our mission is to continue to bring a diverse mixture of artists and crafters to this great venue, creating a signature event for University City,” says Roger Brown, director of University City Events, the promotions company behind Mayfair.

Three years ago, Brown and his wife were inspired to start the festival while strolling around the lake at University Place.

“My wife is a crafter who participates in events across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, and we were commenting about how University City needed to have an event like some of the ones in which we participate,” Brown says.

He approached Nancy Reitz, manager at the Shoppes at University Place, with the idea, and she gave the go-ahead. The first festival happened July 2009. “While a success, the harsh heat put a damper on the event,” Brown said. Organizers then moved it to May – and named it Mayfair.

Though Mayfair is the only festival currently presented in UCity, there was a similar event about 15 years ago. “The previous event was a fine arts festival focused mainly on painting, pottery and photography,” says Brown. “Mayfair includes artists from these categories, but also includes hand-made crafts such as jewelry, leather goods, glass works, clothing and accessories. The goal is to provide a unique variety of items that will appeal to all visitors to the event. All crafts must be original works created by the artisan. We strive to provide our visitors with items that are affordable, along with high-end art.”

Billie Patton and her husband Ralph of The Bee-Line in Seneca, S.C., will be joining the roster of Mayfair vendors for the first time this year with an item that is sure to appeal to many appetites – raw, all natural honey.

“My husband has been a beekeeper for over 40 years. We currently have approximately 50 hives and do not use chemicals when working our bees,” says Patton. They’ve sold at Festival in the Park at Freedom Park in the past, and “love the Charlotte area and people” – making Mayfair a good venue for them.

John Beard and his wife, Jennifer, are also participating in Mayfair for the first time. Their unique pet-themed booth is actually a fundraiser for the Haven Rescue, a nonprofit that rescued 52 dogs last year. Events like Mayfair help raise money for rescues.

“We will be selling bandanas, placemats for dogs and cats, beds, blankets, chew toys, decorated photo and tissue boxes, bows, boas, and cookbooks with recipes for owners and their pets,” Beard says. One hundred percent of sales goes to the rescues since merchandise and labor is donated by volunteers.

This year’s festival also includes a canned food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. Mayfair attendees who bring a canned food donation will receive a free gift from University Place merchants.

Without a doubt, mom would approve.

Want to attend? “Mayfair: A Celebration of Arts and Crafts” will take place May 7, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., and May 8, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Entrances will be on both sides of the lakefront area of Shoppes at University Place, located at the corner of W.T. Harris Blvd and N. Tryon Street, off I-85 at exit 45. For more information, visit the University City Events website here.