AVON PARK - It has become one of the longest-running annual festivals in Highlands County and each year changes and additions are made that strive to make it more unique and fun.
Organizers of the 2014 Springtime on the Mall festival said effort has again been put into making the outdoor event in downtown Avon Park more entertaining and varied.
Initiated, sponsored and planned by the Avon Park Chamber of Commerce, the free springtime festival will take place Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the downtown Main Street Mall.
Now in its 35th year, the event is a combination of the annual "Music on the Mall" music outing featuring area bands. Springtime festival and Chamber organizers, with good weather, are expecting about 3,000 festival-goers to make their way downtown for the fun.
"My goal is to give it a change each year so we can add different things. The mall festival is like an institution here. People will come for the pancake breakfast, stay all day and see what we (Avon Park) have to offer," said Tori Trinder, Avon Park Chamber of Commerce executive director.
The festival takes place both days on Main Street between Museum and Verona avenues and will feature about 90 local and outside vendor booths, about 50 artists and arts an crafts booths and approximately 10 different food stands. Among those attending for the first time this year will be The Turtle Lab, a Tampa metal art and furniture design and building company specializing in industrial furniture, plasma cut art and fabrication and Jeffery Lozier, an 11-year-old Avon Park painter who re-purposes saws and wood that has been smashed in his Karate class and uses it as his canvas.
Trinder, in her second year as chamber executive director, said although most vendors come from around Highlands and adjacent counties, others are from outside Florida, such as Virginia and Maine. She said Highlands County service and non-profit organizations and churches will be represented and money raised through vendor and food booth rentals goes back to the chamber's operations fund.
Non-food vendors and artists pay $75 and food vendors pay $90 to rent a space at the festival.
The number of artists are down this year, said Trinder, possibly due to the elimination of a juried art show, which she hopes to bring back in upcoming years.
"I want to attract more artists, that would be the goal," she said.
Besides the physical arts, the aural arts will be thoroughly represented at the 2014 event.
The "Festival of Music at the Flagpole" will have multiple music groups going until 3:30 p.m. both days. Starting 10 a.m. Friday, area church groups and choirs will perform. From 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday church groups will perform and bands scheduled on the main stage Saturday are: 10 a.m., God's Country; 11 a.m., Flatland Rangers; 12 p.m., Frank Thomas; 1 p.m., J.D. and Zetha Lewis; and 2 p.m., Mountain Memories.
Although some artists may have chosen not to attend due to the absence of competition, other vendors said the springtime festival is one of the best for sales and exposure,
Leonard and Sandra Godwin of Ft. Meade have attended Springtime on the Mall for the past six years, setting up their Sandy's Scents scented oils and warmers booth. Sandra said Avon Park's springtime festival is one of the best financially and logistically of the approximately 13 festivals they attend each year.
"We do very well there. Everyone seems so cooperative, even the vendors buy from each other," she said. "I get some of the same customers over and over and every year it gets bigger and it's set up very nicely."
Additionally on Saturday, a dance group will perform 10 a.m. and the "Doggie Costume and Parade" is at 10:30 a.m.
Trinder said one lane on each side of the mall will be closed, leaving one lane open so traffic trying to get to local merchants wouldn't be hindered.
For information, call (863) 453-3350.