Thousands flocked to downtown Augusta for the opening celebration of the 33rd annual Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival on Friday.
Patrons were treated to live music, poetry readings and dancing while they browsed the more than 110 vendors lining two blocks of Broad Street.
In a tent with a banner that read “The Whistle Guy,” David Chrzan, sat among his homemade English-style ocarina flutes while passersby stopped to marvel at the instruments.
Some of the clay flutes kept to the traditional teardrop shape of a four-hole ocarina, but the more elaborate pieces resembled fish, frogs and even dinosaurs.
“There are not many people that do this,” Chrzan said. “People come up all the time and say, ‘This is really neat’ and ‘How do you do this?’ They get a kick out of it.”
Chrzan, who taught himself how to make the flutes more than 12 years ago after taking a sculpting class, said that he gets more joy out of making the instrument than selling it.
“What I really like is for kids to come back the next year and play a song for me,” he said.
About 6 p.m., patrons filled the Augusta Common to watch the opening ceremony, which included a small parade with representatives from each of the 20 countries represented in this year’s festival.
Boys and girls dressed in traditional outfits of their home countries marched through the crowd carrying flags before taking their place on the Global Stage.
The smell of freshly cooked food cut through the air as hungry festival-goers lined up for their chance to try ethnic food from one of more than 17 food vendors.
“This is always a very nice festival,” said Terri Stewart, who is volunteering for the second time. “I think this is a chance for the community to come together. It’s all different kinds of people who have different ideas coming together and enjoying each other.”
Near one of the jewelry tents, Vladimir Cechova pointed out some pieces to his wife, Marcela. A native of Prague, Cechova said that he is “spoiled” when it comes to art and music, but he still enjoys the opportunity to spend time with this wife outside.
“We’ll probably find some ethnic food – maybe German, maybe Greek – and enjoy the weather,” he said. “This event is whatever you make it, really.”
The festival continues Saturday , with gates opening at 11 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m.