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Even the weather was a work of art

Thousands turned out Saturday for Tampa's 24th annual Gasparilla Sidewalk Art Festival where spectators perused everything from serious art to whimsical portraits of flying pigs.

But it was a hairless dog named Stripe that threatened to steal the show.

"It's this way everywhere we go," said Stripe's owner, Judy Council, as people parted to get a look at the chocolate-brown and leathery-looking short-haired Chinese Crest. "He'd be the color of that slate-gray over there if he wasn't tanned."

Council, a dog breeder from Sarasota, said she came to the art show to bask in the beautiful weather, admire the artwork, and show off her canine charge, who tended to shiver every time they turned down a shady side street.

But there were few complaints from spectators about the 70 degree-plus weather _ or from the hundreds of artists who displayed their work along Ashley Drive between Kennedy Boulevard and Polk Street.

"I love this weather," Georgia artist Diane Peck said. "Every other show I've done here it's rained."

Peck's specialty was a collection of brightly colored, geometric porcelain teapots priced at about $75. She said she had sold a few pieces by early Saturday afternoon and hoped to make more sales today.

The booth that seemed to be doing some of the briskest business was operated by Orlando artists Deb Lippens and Cathy Rose, who were selling whimsical pottery mugs as quickly as they could display them.

"We have a blast in the studio," Lippens said. "My partner teaches kindergarten so she lets her whimsical and childlike side through."

As the throngs of people strolled past the hundreds of exhibits, many took advantage of an outdoor food court where vendors were selling everything from gourmet coffee and beer to Italian sausage sandwiches.

"I love it," said Riverview resident Linda Meade said. "I like it on the downtown streets rather than on the riverfront. It's the way it used to be."

The art show will conclude at 5 p.m. today.

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