Clayton’s Millstock festival, now smaller, still ‘worth it’ to local artists

ndunn@newsobserver.comMay 26, 2014 

Millstock, an art and music festival, is held annually on Horne Square in downtown Clayton.


Fourteen years ago, a handful of artists gathered in a small, dirt parking lot behind The Coffee Mill in downtown Clayton. On tables and homemade stands, they showed off and sold their works to the few dozen people who came to the first Millstock festival.

It became an annual event, and as it grew over time, so did the costs for the several supporters who joined former Coffee Mill owners Jodi Sager and Cliff Morgan in their homegrown effort. In 2011, after Millstock’s annual attendance rose to nearly 6,000 people, organizers talked of ending the art and music festival.

“We wanted to keep it going,” said John McFadden, a Clayton merchant who directs the event through Clayton Visual Arts Inc., one of several that has helped foster Millstock since it launched in 2000. “Clayton is an arts community.”

Under McFadden’s direction, Clayton Visual Arts took the reigns to the festival but scaled it back enough to make the event a break-even enterprise. It moved from Main Street to Horne Square for art and music and Lombard Street for more music. Attendance decreased to about 1,500 people most years.

This year, more than 40 artists are expected to show and sell their works from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 7 on Horne Square. Clayton Visual Arts remains the main sponsor but receives funding from the Johnston County Visitors Bureau, Johnston County Arts Council and the Town of Clayton.

Traditional painters, jewelers, potters and mixed-media artists will set up on Horne Square, which is on Main Street in the heart of downtown.

Pam Douglas of Raleigh, who makes women’s jewelry, has brought her specialty spoon and fork jewelry to Millstock for the past four years. A New York native, Douglas said Millstock has a laid-back atmosphere that caters to the artists.

“For an artist, it’s not a grueling day – it’s a fun day,” Douglas said. “You can engage with the crowd out there. It’s a large enough crowd for it to be worth it, but not an overwhelming crowd.”

A lineup of seven musicians will play acoustic sets on the square. Other bands are scheduled to perform at The Flipside, which joins The Coffee Mill off of Lombard Street.

McFadden said antique tractor equipment will be on display this year, and the old B.M. Robertson Mule Co. barn will be open on South Lombard Street. Also, the festival will offer activities for children, including a creativity booth, bottle cap mosaic projects and a sidewalk art contest.

Admission is free. Food and drinks will be for sale.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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