SEBRING - In 1966, a group of local artists held a small exhibition of their work at a tourism center building downtown.
That building is long gone, but during the past 47 years, the exhibition grew into the Highlands Fine Arts & Crafts Festival where an estimated 15,000 people come every year.
This year, 54 artists will display their arts and crafts in downtown Sebring on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"Over the last few years, we've seen steady growth," Susan James, manager of the Highlands Art League, said of the artists who participate.
Scott Robinson, who mostly does black and white art made of acrylics and is currently focusing on landscapes, said this year will be his first. The Tampa artist said he had attended previous Highlands Fire Art & Crafts festivals and noticed that the event is well organized, has quality art and that artists make sales.
"With this being their 47th year, they must be doing something right," Robinson said.
He said he's been doing painting since he was 6 years old.
"When I was 6, my grandmother put a paint brush in my hand," Robinson said. He sold his first piece when he was 16, he said.
Thirty years later, Robinson continues to do art, he said.
Carol Bright, another Tampa artist, also will display her art for the first time in Sebring this year. Bright said her mother is an artist who has participated in the Highlands County festival. She said her mother recommended that she participate in it because the event "is well run and artist oriented."
She said she creates jewelry made of copper, brass, gem stones and other materials. She does pendants, earrings, bracelets and rings, she added.
Artists like Robinson and Bright enjoy competing for prizes and having the opportunity to sell art, James said.
"They get a lot of interest in their work," she said. "They usually make several sales."
For many of the attendees, she said, it's the first event of the holiday season where they look for gifts.
One new feature of the festival this year is that Highlands Little Theatre performers will perform a segment of "Little Shop of Horrors," the feature production that will begin later in November, she said. That performance will be on the circle.
The festival will be held on the circle and along the spokes.
It won't be just for adults. A children's area will be set up on West Center and will have arts and crafts and other activities.
On North Commerce, food will be available. One vendor will sell Greek food; another hotdogs, she said.
Other traditional festival food, such kettle korn and cotton candy, also will be available.