A View From Tracy's Point
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I’ve lived in Florida all of my life and for at least half of those many years I have traveled I-75 north to I-10, in route to Tallahassee. Yet, this past weekend is the first time I ventured off my path into the city of Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators and the annual Fifth Avenue Arts Festival, which was celebrating 31 years. My first impression of Gainesville was what a quaint little town. It had such a hometown feel to it, and the UF campus was really beautiful. During the festival I had the opportunity to meet some genuinely nice people who welcomed me to their city.
I received information on the Fifth Avenue Arts Festival in the mail, after attending the Zora Neale Festival earlier this year. The fact that the festival was in its 31st year was impressive. Now according to Wikipedia.com, an arts festival or art fair is a festival that focuses on the visual arts, but which may also focus on other arts. So other arts is what we will go with since the only artwork I saw was commercial art being sold by some of the vendors. See, when I think of art festivals I think artist selling their original work while creating new pieces as patrons of the festival stroll by. Of course you have other vendors which round out the event.
At this particular festival I didn’t see much artsy-ness taking place, so I will say that this was more of a cultural arts festival, with a focus on community and the children of that community. The festival started Saturday morning at 10 a.m. with a full gospel program, which featured Willie King Jr. and members of Showers of Blessing Harvest Center in southeast Gainesville, Larry Dennison and members of Compassionate Outreach Ministries in southeast Gainesville and Shirley Watts and members of the Community Praise Center in northeast Gainesville. The gospel segment lasted until about 1:30 p.m. There was some great gospel singing and praise performances, my favorite, the Seasoned Seniors Praise Dancers. I tell you, Grandma’s have evolved and these ladies were beautiful and full of grace.
The entertainment transitioned from gospel to creative dances that included an African dance troupe and a dance ensemble out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida headed by Gainesville native, Trameka Cummins. After the dance troupes left the stage, so did my interest and joy in having a booth located in-line with the main stage. Perhaps it is just my age catching up with me because next up were performances to and by rappers. Slowly the crowd transitioned from the grown and sexy to the below 18. By 5 p.m. I could no longer concentrate between the busyness on stage and the profanity laced conversations taking place in my vicinity. The vibe had definitely changed and the unsuspecting tourists sealed the deal when they began stopping at my booth asking, “So what exactly is going on here?” The festival was scheduled to close at 8 p.m. but by then I was nearing the end of my two hour trek back home. And honestly, when I awakened Sunday morning to dark skies and torrential rains, I had already decided not to return for Sunday’s set-up.
Despite this festival being a little outside my element, I am glad I did participate. There seemed to be a central theme of being invested in youth, circulating through the area. As I mentioned above, I had the opportunity to meet some really nice people, including Miss Jasmine, who was manning the Girls to Young Ladies information booth. GYL is dedicated to empowering and supporting girls as they transition into womanhood. Then there was Mr. Willie Carter, a recently widowed gentleman who touched my heart as he shared with me the loss of his beloved wife to Breast Cancer. Big ups to Mo, with the Marine Institute and Crystal, whose mom was convinced she’d learn something from Love…Like Snow In Florida On A Hot Summer Day. Didn’t know exactly what that meant…Hhmmm.
Next up is the National Black Book Festival in Houston, Texas. If you are in the Houston area I hope you will come by and say hi, and support the many authors who will be displaying their work.
Until the next time, stay blessed.
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