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Best bets for weekend art experiences

Let's all hope the weather turns out warm and wonderful this weekend as Gwinnett County celebrates Mother's Day and the arts. Two arts festivals and several other opportunities offer families a wonderful way to be together, have fun and enjoy the many artistic experiences our county has to offer.

Barefoot in the Park Arts Festival is celebrating its fifth year. On Saturday and Sunday, festival goers can take advantage of this free event and enjoy visual, performing, literary and children's art. Of special note this year are two areas that are either new to Barefoot or have grown so much they seem like new.

The Book Bistro will have books for everyone, with about 14 authors on hand to sign your book purchase and answer questions. The other venue is the Beer Garden. This quiet little nook of the park has a beer concession, tables, chairs and a gazebo. Last year, several musicians took advantage of its "cafe" setting as opposed to the festival stage. It was such a success that this year Saturday and Sunday will both feature entertainment in the Beer Garden to suit just about every taste.

Saturday's Beer Garden entertainment will start at 12:30 p.m. with the young singing phenom Stephen Norwood. He will be followed by the Dixie Darlins, a comedy troupe of authors who not only write but do stand-up. They will be followed by "Gene, Gene the Sax Machine," a solo saxophonist.

Then the "Red Hat Lady" will take the microphone. Her real name is Heywood Smith, and she is the author of four books about "The Red Hat Club." Rounding out the day will be Collateral Relations, a band with an eclectic, diverse playlist, from Celtic to folk and more.

Sunday will begin with David Ray Cole playing his favorite Celtic songs at 1:30 p.m. At 2:30 and 4:15 p.m., the Georgia Young Men's Ensemble will perform, and in between, the audience will be treated to the Atlanta Harmony Celebration, an all-female barbershop chorus. The Beer Garden entertainment is separate from the day-long slate of acts on the festival stage.

For more information, visit the Barefoot web site at www.barefootinthepark.org.

Another arts festival will be rockin' right up the road from noon to

10 p.m. Saturday. The city of Buford will celebrate its Second Annual Historic Buford Art and Jazz Festival. The amphitheater in front of the Bona Allen Mansion will offer a venue for local school bands, martial arts demonstrations and Salsa Atlanta.

From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. there will be a wine tasting event in the Bona Allen mansion, and afterward jazz all night long. There will also be an artists' market alongside the amphitheatre where many of the Buford Artist Colony membership will have work on display.

The wine tasting event requires a ticket that can be purchased for $25, but there is a limit of 300 individuals who can participate, so go to twww.visitbuford.com/

ArtJazz.html for more instructions.

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