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    Festival lets 200 artists show skills

    Local and national artists will bring a variety of works to the Tarpon Springs Arts & Crafts Festival at Craig Park this weekend.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


    TARPON SPRINGS -- Every year, Karin and Julian Mesa go through the same drill.

    They show their carved glass pieces at the Tarpon Springs art show, then vow to start working immediately on projects for the next year's festival. And every year, they forget that promise until shortly before the start of the annual show.

    This year is no different. At their studio, the La Mancha Glass Gardens off Anclote Road, they are working at a frenzied pace to complete the pieces they will try to sell at the festival.

    "I'm frantic," said Karin Mesa. "We always do the same thing. We pull all-nighters for weeks."

    The Mesas will join more than 200 other artists at the 27th annual Tarpon Springs Arts & Crafts Festival this weekend. Artists will travel from as far as Sausalito, Calif., for the show, which has been ranked among the top 100 in the country by Sunshine Artist magazine twice in recent years.

    Twelve of this year's exhibitors are from Tarpon Springs, which is home to a loose-knit community of artists. Some make jewelry, others work with glass, metal or wood.

    For the Tarpon Springs artists, the festival is an opportunity to be part of a prestigious art show without having to travel far. They can pack their paintings and sculptures into their trucks and station wagons, then drive to Craig Park on Spring Bayou.

    For some of the artists, it is the only opportunity they have for local people to see their work.

    "The local people that know me really don't get to see my artwork," said Joseph Rotella, a sculptor who lives in Tarpon Springs. "This is my chance to say, "Hey guys, here I am.' "

    Whether they only participate in the Tarpon Springs show, like the Mesas, or travel to shows around the country, local artists all praise the festival for the quality of the artwork and the serene waterfront setting.

    "This is an established show," said Cyndy Callog, a watercolor painter who participates in about 40 shows every year. "It is one of the best."

    "The ambience here is so unbelievable," Rotella said. The Craig Park setting, he said, "helps to make the show. It helps a prospective buyer to say, "I have to buy this.' "

    It is not an accident that so many artists live in Tarpon Springs. Some say they are drawn to living in the city because it is an interesting, historical town rather than a series of cookie-cutter developments.

    "There is a community feel to it," Callog said. "There are not condos on every corner."

    "It's my favorite town," said Karin Mesa, who has lived in the Midwest and throughout Florida. "It's not a really sterile community."

    Organizers predict 25,000 to 30,000 people will attend the show. The weather is expected to remain warm and sunny, which fosters good crowds, said Charlie Phillips, executive director of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce.

    "I check the weather reports constantly," he said.

    Admission is $1, and children under 16 will be admitted free. The festival is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce runs the event, which is co-sponsored by Bank of America and the St. Petersburg Times.

    Street parking is available near the festival, which is on Spring Bayou. Parking also is available at the St. Timothy Lutheran Church parking lot, 812 E Tarpon Ave., with a $1.50 round-trip shuttle provided by the Astro Skate Center.

    An area will be set aside for children's activities, including face-painting and pictures with the Easter Bunny. Musicians will perform throughout both days. For more information, call the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce at (727) 937-6109.

    The 22nd annual Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital Beach to Bayou Run also will be Saturday morning around Spring Bayou. Registration costs $15 and starts at 7 a.m. on Orange Street between Alt. U.S. 19 and Spring Boulevard. A 1-mile walk/run begins at 7:45 a.m. and a 5K run begins at 8 a.m., said Dianne Chamberlain, community outreach coordinator for the hospital. Every participant and one guest can get into the art show free, and top finishers in various age groups will receive a signed lithograph from Dunedin artist Ken Hogle. Proceeds from the run benefit the hospital.

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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