ART BEAT: Barefoot in the Park Arts Festival prepares for an exciting event

Barefoot in the Park Arts Festival will celebrate its eighth year of bringing all types of arts enjoyment to the thousands of visitors who attend this annual event in Duluth's Town Green park. This year, the festival will begin with the return of the Barefoot Gala on May 4 and continue with free arts festival programming for May 5 and 6.

Approximately 70 tents containing fine artwork of artists from across the southeast and beyond will vie with a continuous schedule of musicians and dancers for visitor's attention, including a Children's Art Tent, a Book Bistro, an Adult Learning Village, a Wine Tasting and a Student Exhibition of artwork from Gwinnett schools. Organizers are diligently working on fine tuning these events and more.

One piece of good news is that the Barefoot Gala is returning after a hiatus of two years. Held on May 4, this year's return will be titled "Carnevale," featuring decorations and entertainment from the joyous Italian festival tradition. During the gala, there will be special events, one being the second "Paper Dress Fashion Show." This fashion event will showcase glamorous outfits made from repurposed books and magazines from the Gwinnett Public Library.

There will also be plenty of performances to be enjoyed on Saturday and Sunday. Performances will begin on May 5 at 11 a.m. when the Gwinnett Community Band takes the Festival Stage to launch the sights and sounds that will delight visitors all weekend. Performances continue on the Festival Stage until 4:30 p.m. that day. The Second Stage, located under the gazebo at the north end of the Town Green will offer continuous entertainment from noon to 4 p.m.

On Sunday, performances will run from noon to 5 p.m. on the Festival Stage and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on the Second Stage.

Barefoot in the Park has been seeking performing groups that offer International cultural arts. As a result, visitors can enjoy dancing and music from India, China, Great Britain and the Middle East. Many favorite Gwinnett-based groups will be returning, such as the Stone Mountain Chorus, the Stephen Lee Band, Gwinnett Community Band, the Gwinnett Choral Guild and Georgia Young Men's Ensemble. Plus, there will be some surprises and some new groups such as Zephyr Instrumental, Southern Ballet Theatre, ballroom, jazz and rock 'n' roll.

The event's Second Stage venue has become a place which showcases young performers. The first performer on the Second Stage on May 5 will be Jenna Bass, Miss Lilburn Idol, at noon. Young performers from the Gwinnett School of Music and the popular young band 38th Parallel are on board as well as the youth performers from The Actor's Edge and the Sounds of Suwanee Jazz Ensemble. Not all Second Stage performers are youth: The Atlanta Harmony celebration, an all-female barbershop chorus, and our Sax Man will also return.

For more information, email info@barefootinthepark.org or call 678-677-0172. Also visit www.barefootinthepark.org.

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