It has been rainy and sunny, it has been windy and cold or warm and breezy but for 43 years, it has always been.
The Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts marks its 44th year, having grown from a little event amid the livestock area at the Florida State Fairgrounds to a downtown happening that draws a huge crowd. More than 1,000 artists vie for one of the 300 spaces at the festival because it offers some of the largest cash awards on the festival circuit, $74,500 total with $15,000 for Best in Show.
The festival also offers varied experiences. For families with kids, the park has a playground and a river walk and the Tampa Museum of Art next door sets up a free arts and crafts area for kids. Next door is the Glazer Children's Museum (with admission). And really terrific is the Art Collectors in Training program. Gasparilla artists are asked (not required) to donate one or more small, inexpensive works that will be displayed in a tent. Kids 6 to 14 browse the art (no parents allowed) and may purchase one. Everything's priced at $5 or $10. They receive a map of the festival with "their" artist's booth highlighted so they can meet. All money raised is given to a local not-for-profit organization. This year the Brink Foundation is giving matching dollars up to $5,000. The Art Collectors in Training area is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For grownup tastes, the festival hosts an evening cocktail party — GalaRE: — at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Tampa Museum of Art. For $50, you get upscale bites by Capital Grille and live entertainment, plus first chance to see and buy art selected as the winners For fun tastes, the festival adds to its roster of food vendors a fleet of food trucks plus ongoing live entertainment.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected]com or (727) 893-8293.