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ART BEAT: Barefoot in the Park looks ahead to May

Holley Calmes

Holley Calmes

Barefoot In the Park Fine Arts Festival will celebrate its sixth annual event this May 8 and 9 on the rolling lawn of Duluth's Town Green.

And although it's presently the Christmas season, Barefoot organizers have their focus already set on spring. Preparations for next year began as soon as the 2009 event was over, and the committee is now in full planning mode.

Last year's festival saw an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 attendees, according to Duluth Police. The event is particularly family-friendly and the emphasis on fun for children as well as adults continues to be a part of the development process.

One of the original founders is Caryn McGarity, a community leader who envisioned the event and helped make it a reality.

"We worked hard on finding the highest quality artists from all over the region. Our standards are very high, and we focus on fine art," McGarity said. "Last year, we decided to add a literary component, and this year we will be developing our performing area to feature internationally flavored music and dance.

"The literary area last year was a huge success. We partnered with Barnes and Noble, and we think it really took us to the next level. We had authors, book signings, illustrators and even authors who performed stand-up comedy."

This year, the literary aspect will emphasize children's books and illustrators, as well as adult literary interests.

The new focus on international performers is an exciting one. Many favorite groups will be returning to create music and dance, but new groups are being sought as well.

Thus far, returning groups will be The Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra; Drake School of Irish Dance; Gwinnett Community Band; Atlanta Harmony Celebration; Gwinnett Choral Guild; Metro Jazz Club; The Young Men's Ensemble of Georgia; the Stone Mountain Chorus; the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company; and last, but certainly not least, Gene Gene the Sax Machine. However, more groups are being added constantly.

Barefoot is putting out a call for performing groups from culturally diverse origins. Although Barefoot does not reimburse groups for their performance, the visibility and publicity are a definite benefit.

The festival is particularly seeking Hispanic groups from any nationality, East Indian, Moroccan/belly dancing, Latin ballroom and African dance groups. However, any other nationality or ethnicity is welcome to contact the festival.

Another important element to the event is volunteerism. Volunteers always have a wonderful time helping out for a few hours and then spending time with family and friends experiencing the festival. Volunteers have a number of enjoyable tasks to perform, particularly with the large children's art tent, where thousands of young artists test their talents and enjoy mini demonstrations and performances.

Interested performing groups and potential volunteers can e-mail festival organizers at awilliams@duluthga.net. Alisa Williams will distribute incoming messages to the appropriate committee chairperson. Interested fine artists can e-mail Cher Thompson at cher@cherthompson.com. For more information on the festival itself, visit www.barefootinthepark

.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com