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Arts in the Park… Fun, art &food continue to be emphasis of annual three-day spring festival

By Staff
Children's activities, food vendors, an art competition/exhibit/sale, a crafts exhibit and sale, free local entertainment and children's hands-on art activities are among the fun-filled weekend's offerings.
Attendance at previous festivals has reached crowds of 30,000-plus and organizers anticipate the same and more this year.
The festival will kick off Friday evening with two longstanding events.
At 6:30, the Excellence in the Arts awards and reception will be held at the Dentzel Carousel.
Winners were nominated by individuals or organizations, then final selections were made by a committee of anonymous members of the arts council.
In addition to the awards ceremony, the evening will include music and light refreshments. Music also will be provided by the Billy Melton Barber Shop Quartet. Admission to the reception is free.
And at 8 p.m., the swinging sounds of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and others will be performed during the 18th annual Big Band Bash. Sponsored by Lifetime Quest, the event will be held at Frank Cochran Center and will continue to midnight; dress is casual. Music will be presented by the Meridian Community College Big Band, under the direction of Carey Smith.
Tickets are $15 per person. Individual reservations or reservations for tables of eight may be made at the Lifetime Quest Center in Room 126, Hardin Hall on the MCC campus or by calling Michele Thames at the Center at 484-8696. Proceeds from the event provide MCC music scholarships and programs.
Saturday will be the first day of festival activities in the park. Activities will get under way at 9 a.m. and continue to 6 p.m. Admission is free, however booths will be set up in the park to purchase tickets for food and paid activities. Tickets will be sold in 50 cents increments and prices for food and activities will range from $1 to $4.
The food court, which will be set up on the street near the park's tennis courts area, will be open both days. And as always, a wide variety of foods will be available to appease every taste.
The food court will feature:
Fruit smoothies and sodas Meridian Museum of Art
Hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue sandwiches, pickles and sodas Sertoma Club
Ice cream St. John Missionary Baptist Church
Lemonade, curly fries, corn dogs, cotton candy and sodas Meridian Little Theatre
Pizza and snow cones Hamasa Nomads
Chili dogs, drumettes, baked goods and sodas Divine Help Ministries
Pralines, non-alcoholic daiquiris, sausage dogs and red beans and rice St. Joseph Catholic Church
French fries and tater tots topped with chili and cheese, and sodas Mt. Bethel Baptist Church
Sodas, coffee, donuts and other snacks Meridian Civitan Club
Funnel cakes and sodas Calvary Christian School
Catfish nuggets, fish sandwiches, fried okra and sodas New Canaan Baptist Church
Chicken strips, chicken sandwiches, fried pickles and sodas Meridian Community College
Nachos, sodas and bottled water Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church
Chicken-on-a-stick, Cajun turkey Po-boy and sodas St. James AME Church
Like the food court, the festival's children's activities will be varied some free, others at a nominal fee. They include a rock climbing wall, a human gyro, a dunking booth, an Inflatable Fun World featuring a slide, bungee run and moonwalk, pony rides and train rides.
Hands-on activities will include painting and arts and crafts. Also, a Youth Art Competition will be set up in the Frank Cochran Center. Competition will be open to children ages kindergarten through 18 and each participant may enter up to three original works of art. First, second and third place awards and ribbons will be given in six age groups.
And though children are a focus of Arts in the Park, all the fun is not reserved for youth.
A Juried Art Show and Competition will be held Saturday. Judging of competition entries begins at 10 a.m. Dr. Howard Heiden, associate dean of the College of Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi, is juror.
Non-purchase awards totaling over $2,500 will include Best of Show, as well as achievement awards in six categories (oils and acrylics; watercolor and mixed media; graphics, drawings and photographs; pottery and sculpture; fiber art; and traditional and cultural crafts).
Purchase awards of more than $2,000 will include the Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center Award and the Art Sponsors Award.
The exhibition will close at 6 on Saturday. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Arts in the Park's newest attraction is the Antique Alley and Collectors Corner. Both will be located in the Frank Cochran Center and will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Collectors Corner will feature an antique and collectible appraiser on site Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 to appraise special treasurers. Appraisals will cost $2 per item, per day.
Live entertainment is another favorite feature of the annual festival.
Beginning at 9:15 on Saturday, scheduled performances by: Pat Gray Academy of Dance and Gymnastics, Black Eagle Martial Arts, Carol Merrill Academy of Dance, Suzie McCraw School of Dance, TaeKwonDo, Spoken Four Contemporary Gospel Group and International Miss Youth Development. Performances will be presented on the main stage behind the carousel in 45-minute intervals.
The festival will resume on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature food vendors and activities.
A highlight of Sunday's children's activities will be The Royal Marionettes. Three afternoon performances are scheduled at 1, 2:30 and 4 on the main stage. The show features large puppets that entertain the entire family with singing, dancing, comedy, music and audience participation. Admission is free.
Performances also will be presented by area gospel groups and Vickie Gymnastics.
And for those who would like a keepsake from the two-day festival, T-shirts will be sold for $16. Meridian resident Dwight Coleman created this year's design, which features the theme "Around Town, Carousels Abound."
For more information about Arts in the Park 2001, call 693-ARTS.
In addition to contributions and donations from local businesses, organizations and individuals, Arts in the Park is made possible through funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

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