“Barefoot in the Park”

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By Caryn Rachke

The festival gods definitely smiled upon us. After a day of grey clouds, drizzle and claps of thunder, the skies cleared just as we began to set out the linens and centerpieces for Friday evening”s wine tasting and gala. Saturday and Sunday were cloudy but rain-free, drawing thousands of families and arts enthusiasts to downtown Duluth for food, live music, children”s activities and a juried arts festival, known as "Barefoot in the Park."

The festival was conceived by Mayor Shirley Lasseter, Doug Spohn of Spohntown Development and myself, and from there, the idea was embraced by dedicated community members including Rock Paper Scissors, the GCVB staff, the city of Duluth, the Aurora Theatre and the Hudgens Center. Working together with a common mission of raising awareness for Gwinnett County”s arts organizations, showcasing our local and regional artists and exemplifying that fine art is not foreign to the suburbs, all of the committee members devoted untold hours and effort.

Without sponsors, any event is nothing more than a great idea. Without the eager participation of our Presenting Sponsor, Gwinnett Community Bank, this event would not have taken place.

They are well-known for support of Duluth and Gwinnett-based events, and truly lead by example.

Downtown Duluth”s Town Green was a magical venue, winning raves from the exhibitors for its beauty and artist-friendly set-up. The city of Duluth was indispensable; from Mayor Shirley Lasseter to Main Street Coordinator Alisa Williams to the Public Works Staff. Their willingness to showcase Gwinnett from their backyard brought not only artists from the Midwest, East Coast and Florida to Gwinnett but strong local representation including the talented Berkeley Lake Artists, Buford”s Tannery Row Artists and various Duluth artists including Ann Odum.

One of the weekend”s highlights was the talented cast of performers who graced the Duluth amphitheatre. Ann-Carol Pence of the Aurora Theatre and local arts marketing professional Holley Calmes put together a tremendous roster of Gwinnett “grassroots” performers. Festival-goers were treated to performances by the Atlanta Chinese Dance Theatre; the Peachtree Symphonic Winds; the Atlanta Sangerkreis; Gwinnett Ballet Theatre; Gwinnett Choral Guild; the Aurora Theatre; Southern Ballet Theatre; Exit Strategy; One Voice; Peachtree Band of Jazz; the Lionheart Theatre; the BJ Chorale; Young Voices United and the Indian Dance Group.

The Children”s Art Park was a rousing success. Sponsored by Scientific Atlanta, the Art Park was created with a specific mission – not just entertaining children, but educating them on the creative opportunities art offers. Led by a talented cadre of Arts League volunteers and local arts teachers, children enjoyed hands-on and interactive art; created and illustrated their own storybooks, plus model magic, face painting and butterfly hat creation.

Additional event sponsors include Scientific Atlanta; Discovery Point; Foster and Company; Street Smarts; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Gwinnett Partners; and the Hooch Golf Club. No festival is complete without food and drink, and our dining sponsors were nothing short of amazing, both for food and service. Many thanks to Little Gardens Restaurant; Kurt”