Gainesville will transform into a masterful blend of art, music and entertainment during the 37th Annual Downtown Festival & Art Show, one of the nation’s premier outdoor fine arts festivals. Presented by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department (PRCA), the festival draws a crowd of more than 80,000 visitors each year. On Saturday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 2 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., visitors can meet the exhibiting artists, enjoy live music and sample international cuisine.
The Downtown Festival & Art Show, a nationally-recognized event, helps Gainesville get in touch with its creative side. Since 1996, it has ranked among the top festivals in the nation. Visitors embrace the culture of more than 240 of the nation’s most talented artists, who showcase their original oils and acrylics, vibrant watercolors, unique sculptures, dazzling jewelry, decorative ceramics and vivid photography. Artisans compete for more than $20,000 in cash prizes.
“We pride ourselves on our rich collection of art and the experience we provide to the community,” said Event Coordinator Sunshine Andrei. “It is always so much fun to walk around the festival and see everyone enjoying the atmosphere.”
Children have the chance to enjoy the festival and get creative at the Imagination Station, a free, hands-on art activity area. Drawing with chalk, painting pictures, designing masks, sculpting clay and creating puppets and buttons are just a few of the activities in which children will be able to artistically express themselves. In addition to craft activities, the Imagination Station features a performance area with puppet shows, magic acts and music so children can rock to their own beat. Young and aspiring artists display and sell their original artwork in the Young Artist Courtyard. The festival is honored to provide this opportunity to the next generation of artists.
Down the road from the Imagination Station and near the steps of the Hippodrome Theatre, more than 50 nonprofit organizations educate the crowd about the services they provide to the community. Food booths line the streets and give visitors the chance to indulge in sweet barbecue ribs, hearty Mediterranean pitas, Cajun jambalaya, specialty tacos and authentic Thai cuisine. The festival features international dishes from almost 20 food vendors, so no guest leaves hungry.
Visitors craving constant entertainment can check out live performances on four stages throughout the weekend. Music from local bands and solo musicians features a blend of folk, jazz, country, pop and soul. Dance companies also catch the eyes of the crowd with ballet, jazz, modern and international dance performances. The soulful sound of blues usher in the Downtown Festival & Art Show weekend with a free Downtown Blues Concert Friday, Nov. 30 from 7-11 p.m. in downtown Gainesville at the Bo Diddley Plaza. The concert features three incredible blues performances by talented artists “Sweet William” Billy Ellis, Sheba the Mississippi Queen and the Bluesmen, and headliner Lauren Mitchell. “Sweet William” Billy Ellis opens the evening with his broad range of ballads, blues, country and island flavors. Next, Sheba the Mississippi Queen and the Bluesmen will captivate the audience with their original music that blends blues, jazz, R&B and soul. Headliner Lauren Mitchell closes out the evening. Blues Music Magazine called Mitchell, "a mesmerizing performer, with a voice for the ages." Her soulful voice and brilliant interpretations are sure to provide the audience a heartwarming performance they will never forget.
“We are blessed in Alachua County with a community of performing artists that covers a spectrum of music and dance,” said Entertainment Coordinator Bill Hutchinson.
PRCA looks forward to celebrating another successful show and welcomes the community to join in this special event. Gainesville's premier fall festival is a celebration of art and culture that you won't want to miss. Start your holiday shopping now and find unique gifts for family and friends, or purchase artwork for your own collection. Festivities are free and open to the public all weekend. For more information, visit the website at www.gainesvilledowntownartfest.org, the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DowntownFestivalandArtShow or call 352-334-ARTS.