Gainesville transforms into a masterful blend of art, music and entertainment during the 35th Annual Downtown Festival & Art Show, one of the nation’s premier outdoor fine arts festivals. Presented by the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department (PRCA), the festival draws a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors each year. On Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m.-4p.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 and has steadily climbed in rankings in recent years. The Downtown Festival & Art Show was ranked no. 24 on Sunshine Artist magazine’s “100 Best” list of top fine arts festivals in the nation.
Art enthusiasts are not the only ones who appreciate the festival. 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 $22,000 in cash prizes and purchase awards.
“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 also 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. Art education students from the University of Florida work throughout the fall semester to produce this hub of family-friendly fun. A new feature this year is the Young Artist Courtyard where young and aspiring artists can display and sell their original artwork. 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 55 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 blooming onions, sweet barbecue ribs, hearty Mediterranean pitas, Cajun jambalaya and authentic Thai cuisine. The festival features international dishes from more than 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 ushers in the Downtown Festival & Art Show weekend with a free Downtown Blues Concert Friday, Nov. 4 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bo Diddley Plaza, and features three incredible blues performances. Local artists Cassie Keenum and Rick Randlett open the evening blending Keenum’s stunning vocals with Randlett’s acoustic blues. Next, JuJu Junction energizes the night with both their originals, as well as interpretative covers of classics. Closing out the evening is headliner Annika Chambers. As a 2015 Blues Music Award nominee for Best New Artist, this powerhouse singer from Houston, Texas has been referred to as a “dynamic monster vocalist,” and is sure to provide the audience a soulful, 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 www.gainesvilledowntownartfest.org, http://www.facebook.com/DowntownFestivalandArtShow or call 352-334-ARTS.