Freebie of the Week: Gaspar the Art Lover

The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts

Just when it seems Gasparilla is all beer guzzling and bead tossing, along comes the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts to put a polish on it all. The festival takes place in Downtown Tampa on Ashley Drive and in Curtis Hixon Park from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3. This year's festival displays works by more than 300 artists in a wide range of media. The juried, outdoor exhibits are contenders for prize money totaling $60,500, which includes 35 awards from $1,000 to $15,000 for Best of Show. In addition, there's a $1,000 award presented to the winner of the Emerging Artist Program.

There's also live musical entertainment by the following artists: Pooka, an Irish band that plays traditional folkloric music, at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2; singer Veronica Ortega at 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2; jazz act Stratosphere with trumpeter Mark Zauss at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, March 3; and The Biscuit Boys, proclaimed heroes of Bluegrass, at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3.

A hands-on arts and crafts tent for children is located the Tampa Museum of Art (600 N. Ashley Drive). The activity area is also free, and open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 2 and 3.

The size of the show and the quality of the art has been on an upward trend since 1971, when the festival first exhibited in what was then a sleepy section of downtown Tampa. One of the first efforts to revitalize the center of the city, the festival is now rated as one of the top shows in the country.

Curtis Hixon Park is at 600 N. Ashley Drive, in downtown Tampa. HARTLine is providing free shuttles from downtown parking locations to the festival. For more info on the event, call the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts information line, 813-876-1747, or visit the festival's web site:

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