FestForAll gets an early start 

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISCrowds fill the art booths during FestForAll, one of the city's biggest festivals each spring. The event featured artists and craftsmen, live music and a variety of Louisiana specialty foods.
Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNISCrowds fill the art booths during FestForAll, one of the city's biggest festivals each spring. The event featured artists and craftsmen, live music and a variety of Louisiana specialty foods.

Baton Rouge’s annual spring celebration gets an early start

Now that the Mardi Gras beads are put away and St. Patrick’s Day cabbages have been eaten, it’s festival time.

This year, FestForAll will be the first major festival in Baton Rouge. The new dates of April 6 and 7 will spare local residents the difficult choice between FestForAll and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which will take place April 26-May 5, said Kathy Scherer, acting director of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.

“FestForAll is equal parts art, music and children’s activities and of course food and fun,” she said.

The festivities begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday. Admission is free. Events will be held around the Shaw Center for the Arts, the Old State Capitol and North Boulevard Town Square.

One of the unique aspects of FestForAll is the emphasis on art.

“We want to celebrate the visual arts and encourage the continuation of traditional crafts and fine crafts. FestForAll is juried so all of the work is of the highest quality,” Scherer said.

More than 100 artists will display and sell their works at the festival. The Arts Council will give $6,000 in prizes to artists and the winners will display signs on their booths after judging is completed on Sunday. The judge this year is multi-disciplinary artist Sam Corso.

Artworks are available for all budgets, from $5 functional coffee mugs to large paintings and pottery, Scherer said. Buyers can bring their receipts for each purchase of $30 or more to the information booth for a chance to win prizes, including a poster designed by Visit Baton Rouge, Country Roads Magazine T-shirts, FestForAll CDs, gift certificates and tote bags. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Arts Council, 40 prizes will be given away.

Festival attendees will also be able to see artists in action, from demonstrations of wheel-throwing and sculpting to chain saw art by Burt Fleming.

The Velo des Artes Bicycle Ride coordinated by Bike Baton Rouge highlights public art downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods. The ride is open to all bicyclists and starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Louisiana State Museum, 4th Street at Spanish Town Road.

Music lovers will find plenty to enjoy at the festival. More than 20 local bands will perform on two outdoor stages. The Hit Men will also play inside the Manship Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday night. Tickets are $40-$55. A screening of the film Sound City, a documentary about the California music studio of the same name, will be held at the Manship Theatre at 4 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8.50 and $6.50 for students and seniors. More information about both events can be found at http://www.manshiptheatre.org.

At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, local dancers will perform highlights from Derek’s Song, a dance tribute to former president and CEO of the Arts Council Derek Gordon who passed away in 2012. The show features children and professional dancers trained by the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

In the Children’s Village, kids and their families will find activities including face painting, art activities, cartoon caricatures, music lessons, mini art lessons, a Lego booth and demonstrations by Woodlawn High School’s robotics team. Special performances for children will also take place on the Children’s Village Stage.

Children can participate in Nano Day inside the Louisiana Art & Science Museum on Saturday, learning about atoms, molecules, and nanoscale forces with interactive displays and activities. Students are admitted to the museum free with an ID or report card.

More children’s activities will also be located by the Dog and Cat Adoption area sponsored by Project Purr, Cat Haven and Friends of the Animals.

Like all the great Louisiana festivals, FestForAll will include plenty of food and drink from jambalaya to funnel cakes.