SYLACAUGA – Because it was chosen a bicentennial event for Alabama’s 200th birthday celebration, the Magic of Marble Festival is getting recognition statewide and nationally, and in some instances, internationally.
The 11th festival will be April 2-13 in the Marble City. Sculptors from as far away as Syria are making inquiries about the festival, which continues to grow.
Ten years ago, when the festival was in its infancy, everyone was wondering if this new endeavor was going to work, said Dr. Ted Spears, chairman of the festival committee.
“I believe this festival actually has magic in it, and it is helping to put our marble industry back on not just the state map, but also the world map,” Spears said.
One of the top keys to bringing more success to Sylacauga and its Magic of Marble Festival, Spears said, is the festival’s selection as a bicentennial event by the Bicentennial Commission.
“The city and this festival has a great friend on the commission … (in) Jay Lamar,” Spears said. “This is bringing us national and international attention for our state’s birthday. Sylacauga has something unique to spotlight in this state.”
As a result of the publicity, Spears said the festival had to close registration for the event. “We have 37 sculptors signed up to come. We have never had this many people register this early,” he said.
Spears characterized the festival as exceptionally important for the city, not only for its economic impact, but also its ability to brand Sylacauga as “The Marble City.”
The committee chairman said Sylacauga is building a reputation as the place you want to be if you want to sculpt.
“We have returning sculptors and many new ones. While others are spreading the word about Sylacauga marble,” he said.
Spears said last year’s featured sculptor, Italian Marcello Giorgio, is returning this year. “He said he never had a better experience in his life than last year’s festival,” Spears said. “He is doing a symposium in Montgomery while he is here. A reception is planned for him there on April 1. We hope many of our committee and volunteers can go to Montgomery for that.”
Not only has the festival brought recognition back to Sylacauga and re-established its name as the Marble City, the marble industry has seen a transformation.
Four of the last five industries to locate here did so because of marble and its components.
The festival is bringing busloads of tourists to downtown, where they can walk to local restaurants, visit the library and see a 1900s feed and seed store (Pete’s Feed and Seed) in operation, Spears said.
The visitors can do all this from Central Park, where the sculptors work, taking a piece of marble dug up from the earth in Sylacauga and creating an amazing sculpture.
The Marble City partners with the city of Pietrasanta, Italy, each year to bring sculptors here. These sculptors return home, spreading the word about how great Sylacauga’s pure-white marble is. It has been lauded as some of the world’s highest-quality architectural and sculpting marble by those who know about it.
One of the notable programs scheduled for the festival is a presentation on Geneva Mercer on April 5 at 10 a.m. at B.B. Comer Library.
Mercer was one of Alabama’s most notable artists. She was also the first Alabama artist to have all of her works documented at the Smithsonian Institution.
She had an apprenticeship with Giuseppe Moretti, a noted sculptor and painter.
Also Giorgio is holding a “Symposium on Marble” on April 4 at 1 p.m. at the library in the Harry Brown Auditorium. Sculptors and visitors are invited to attend.
There will be other programs, marble quarry tours and daily sculpting in Central Park during the festival.
Spears said while the importance of the festival is the attention it brings to the community and marble, the reason for the Marble Festival is to recreate the magic of marble and its artistic, commercial and industrial application.
“Come out and experience the Sylacauga Magic of Marble Festival,” encouraged Spears.