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Arts in the Park to be held this weekend

By By Ida Brown/The Meridian Star
April 6, 2001
While the annual Arts in the Park Festival goes on rain or shine, organizers are breathing a little easier now that the recent influx of rain and severe weather has subsided.
Sponsored by the Meridian Arts Council, the annual spring fest gets under way this weekend in historic Highland Park. Organizers have prepared for a crowd of more than 30,000 children and adults from local and surrounding areas, as well as other locales.
Children's activities, food vendors, an art competition/exhibit/sale, a crafts exhibit and sale and free local entertainment are among the fun-filled weekend's offerings.
The festival kicks off this evening with two longstanding events.
At 6:30, the Excellence in the Arts awards and reception will be held at the Dentzel Carousel. The event honors local artists, art educators and art patrons for their artistic contributions to the community.
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, the 18th annual Big Band Bash will be presented.
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.
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 provided by local non-profit organizations will be available. In addition to traditional favorites such as hamburgers and hot dogs, the food court also will feature barbecue sandwiches, ice cream, lemonade, cotton candy, pizza, snow cones, baked goods, pralines, sausage dogs, red beans and rice, funnel cakes, catfish nuggets, fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, fried pickles, chicken-on-a-stick and Cajun turkey Po-boys.
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 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.
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, performances by local dance and martial arts schools 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. Admission is free.
Performances also will be presented by area gospel groups and Vickie Gymnastics.