Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival begins

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For Sherry and Steve Melbrook, the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival provides one of the hardest choices they face all year: what to eat.

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Members of the German Friendship Club dance around a Maypole as they perform during the opening night of Arts in the Heart of Augusta.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Members of the German Friendship Club dance around a Maypole as they perform during the opening night of Arts in the Heart of Augusta.

“It’s an impossible task,” Sher­ry Melbrook said. “We want to support Germany as the host country, but look at what Nigeria is serving.”

The Melbrooks were among thousands Friday who flocked to the event highlighting the different cultures that make up the area. More than 100 arts and crafts vendors and 20 local nonprofit arts organizations have booths. In the Global Village at Augusta Common, more than 15 countries sold traditional food and showcased traditional costumes and dance.

“It’s going swimmingly,” said Sallie West, a spokeswoman for the Greater Augusta Arts Council.

“The parade of nations was beautiful.”

Members of the Pakistan tent were offering henna art, and Samoans were teaching people how to say “hello” and “love” in their language.

Host country Germany offered schnitzels, potato salad, brats and two types of German beer, among other items.

“It’s been excellent,” said Ger­man Friendship Club of Augusta President Pat Estep, adding that it had been cooking and preparing for weeks. “We hope to run out of food on Sunday, but with 2,200 schnitzels, that seems unlikely.”

The line for the country’s food was wrapped around the large tent all evening. The food was served by women in dirndls, a traditional German dress.

“It’s so nice to see everyone in traditional clothes,” West said. “Coming from a melting pot where everything is so generic, it’s cool to see people who retain their culture.”

On Broad Street, vendors and downtown businesses showcased art and food.

The Miller Theater served wine and snacks and featured Alternative Artists, a group of local artists headed by Syd Padgett, the owner of OddFellows gallery. The theater lobby held painted guitars, photography and live music. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, the theater will give free tours every 15 minutes.

“We want downtown to really be something,” said Mieko Di Sano, the executive director of Symphony Orches­tra Augusta’s board. “This is our home.”

The event continues through the weekend with food and live performances, including the six performers who reached the final round in AMPED: The Augusta Chronicle Music Contest. They will perform their original songs beginning at 5 p.m. today.

ARTS IN THE HEART OF AUGUSTA

WHEN: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. today; noon-7 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Along Broad Street and at Augusta Common

COST: Weekend badges cost $7 at the gate.


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