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Inverness plays host to arts fest

The Courthouse Square transforms into an open-air arts bazaar Saturday and Sunday, as the 27th annual Festival of the Arts gets underway.

The festival begins each day at 9:30 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m.

Almost 200 fine artists and crafts people will set up booths on the streets and sidewalks of the square, offering items ranging from oil paintings to holiday decorations.

"I think we have a very good mix," said Ernie Verge, who has been chairman of the arts festival for the past two years. "There's pottery, sculpture and paintings. Every category we offered is well represented."

The Festival of the Arts, along with other major art shows scheduled for November, provides people a chance to purchase arts and crafts that could be hard to find elsewhere. Many of the region's best-known wildlife painters, for example, typically turn out for the festival.

The Festival of the Arts is sponsored by the Citrus County Art League and the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce. The Citrus County Chronicle co-sponsors by printing the festival's official program.

This year, more than $2,500 in purchase awards have been collected by the art league. Purchase awards are pledges of more than $100 that are received from businesses. Businesses then use these awards to purchase art at the festival. Purchase awards are marked by a ribbon recognizing the business or individual.

The Citrus County Art League does not profit from the Festival of the Arts, Verge said.

"We don't make money," Verge said. "It's for the artists to come, really. All the money from entry fees goes back as prizes."

Food vendors will set up in the street in front of the new Citrus County Courthouse. Downtown restaurants also will be open. Continuous entertainment will be provided under the performing tent at the end of the pedestrian walkway by the old courthouse.

Inverness Mayor Joyce Rogers will preside over the opening ceremonies Saturday at the entrainment tent, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Joining her will be Verge and Chamber of Commerce chairman Jim Neal.

The awards ceremony will be Sunday at 3 p.m.