5th Avenue festival sees more rain


Artist Alyne Harris of Gainesville talks to a customer.

MATT STAMEY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.

Pouring rain and cold temperatures could not dampen the enthusiasm of those who ventured out last Saturday during the 34th annual 5th Avenue Arts Festival and then returned Sunday despite the cold temperatures and cloudy skies.

Nkwanda Jah, executive director of the Cultural Arts Coalition, which sponsors the festival, said the rain and cold temperatures on Saturday hurt the festival, but not the food vendors. She said festival-goers returned on Sunday and it was a good day for the two-day festival held last weekend on NW 6th Street between 3rd and 7th avenues.

"The food vendors had a good day Saturday and the people enjoyed the food," said Jah. "Next year, we're moving the festival's date to May to avoid the April showers. Last year, the rain was an issue also."

The festival kicked off with a reception attended by more than 125 people and held at the A. Quinn Jones Center. Michael Bowie, a member of the Cultural Arts Coalition Board of Directors, served as master of ceremonies. The event was hosted by the Gainesville chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.

Those attending were treated to a buffet of jerk chicken, Jamaican chicken and beef patties, white rice and beans, barbecue chicken, green beans, roasted potatoes, shrimp salad, fried plantains, desserts and other foods.

Bowie was very pleased with the reception. "It worked extremely well and it was a great introduction to the festival," Bowie said. "It reflected the richness of the community."

The event began with "libations," a traditional African ceremony that begins a gathering. It was delivered by Ayoka Sowala and Nii Sowala. The entertainment included dances by the Makare African Dance Family and the University of Florida Club Creole.

Yvette Clarke, a member of the Cultural Arts Coalition board, offered a brief history of the 5th Avenue Arts Festival and Gainesville poet Linda Johnson, through spoken word, told the story of the 5th Avenue/Pleasant Street neighborhood, the people and the businesses during the 1950s to the 1970s. Vivian Filer, a member of Delta Sigma Theta, recited "Bring That College Home."

The first day of the festival on Saturday was rained out, but Alyne Harris, a Gainesville Southern folk artist who paints acrylic on board and canvas, stayed on and returned on Sunday. And it paid off, because Harris said she sold art on both days.

"It's been raining on and off," said Harris about her experience on Saturday. "It has affected me, but I'm still selling."

Karen Cole-Smith, executive director of Community Outreach and the East Gainesville Instruction for Santa Fe College, was at the festival on Sunday providing information about educational opportunities at the college. "We take advantage to reach out to the community to let people know what we're offering," said Cole-Smith.

Kim Gregg, a teacher at J.J. Finley Elementary School, was giving out free children's books at the festival.

And Arzella Louidor, who homeschools her children Chloe, 10, and Wrex, 6, said she was glad they decided to come on Sunday. "We're having a good time," Louidor said.

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