SuncoastfestBy Celeste McLaughlin

On Saturday and Sunday, the “main drag” through the Shops at Wiregrass – Paseo Drive – will again be filled with all kinds of art for the 11th annual Suncoast Arts Festival (SAF).

Created and produced by Fine Arts of the Suncoast, the Festival typically attracts about 100,000 people (photo from last year, right) over the two days of the event. About 125 fine artists and craftsmen will have their art on display, including sculpture, jewelry, painting, drawing and even sidewalk chalk art.

“Artists travel here from all over the country,” says Jennifer Douglas, who owns Jennifer Lee Events, which is managing this year’s festival. “They’re coming to participate in our juried competition, which will award $10,000 in prizes.”

Kids can participate in the free hands-on art garden, with activities and take-home crafts throughout the weekend, and can complete a scavenger hunt to earn prizes. There also will be an art “makerspace,” a creative place for older kids. According to Douglas, the makerspace environment helps kids, “understand the symbiotic relationship between art and technology, and shows them how art translates into many areas of our lives.”

This year’s “Chalk Walk” will be the first to feature only professional street artists. In the past, the Chalk Walk has been an amateur competition, but this year, it’s a commissioned exhibit, sponsored by Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts.

Other highlights of this year’s SAF include a glass-etching experience and an emerging artists exhibit, where artwork by Pasco County high school students will be on display.

Entertainment will be provided all weekend long at the main stage across from Macy’s, with headliners De Lei’ed Parrots and The Black Honkeys.

Proceeds from the Festival are donated to Pasco County schools through the Fine Arts of the Suncoast’s grant program. Any teacher in a Pasco County school (public, private, or charter) can apply for these grants for any fine or performing arts discipline, including dance and music, to supplement art programs in the school, giving students special experiences beyond their school’s typical curriculum. Recipients of the 2016 grants will be announced at the festival on Sunday.

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Kumquats Return To Dade City!

Downtown Dade City’s always-fun 19th-annual Kumquat Festival will be held on Saturday, January 30, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

“It’s real, authentic, old Florida featuring a unique and funky little fruit,” says John Moors, executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the event.

Kumquats are small citrus fruits grown near Dade City. Moors says this year’s crop is plentiful and is being harvested now, in advance of the Festival.

With more than 425 vendors and 40 sponsors, historic downtown Dade City will be transformed to include arts and crafts, a car and truck show, live local entertainment, a farmer’s market and all kinds of kumquat pies and products.

“Our vendors offer a wide variety of interesting, eclectic, and homemade items,” says Moors. “And, of course, all of our shops and restaurants will be open.”

About 40,000 people attended last year (photo), and Moors expects that this year’s Festival will attract a similar crowd. He says Dade City’s downtown has new restaurants, including a Mediterranean/Greek restaurant and a cigar lounge, which complement the great southern food people have come to expect in the quaint old town.

And, those who attend the Festival will see another sign of downtown revitalization, with the opening of a new City Hall and police headquarters this month.

Admission and parking are free, and free transportation also is provided from multiple satellite lots. New this year, Moors says vendors will offer their kumquat pies for sale in the parking lots, so guests can purchase theirs right before they head home and not have to carry their pies around during the event.

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