Originally created 09/17/99

Festival showcases area's many cultures



Not quite as impressive as Boston or Savannah's St. Patrick Day festivities, Augusta still holds its own when it comes to shamrock-inspired partying.

Irish eyes will have another chance to smile at the Greater Augusta Arts Council's Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival, which starts tonight. The 19th annual festival along Riverwalk Augusta runs through Sunday and celebrates the culture of the Emerald Isle.

Going for an authentic Irish feel, O'Gusta's Irish Pub, serving Guinness, Harp and Killian's beers, will be erected in two adjoining tents on the festival site, which stretches from Eighth Street to Ninth Street along the riverwalk.

The opening ceremony is at 6:30 tonight at Jessye Norman Amphitheater. Dancers will perform an Irish jig; the Irish national anthem will be performed; State Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling, will sing The Star Spangled Banner; and more than 40 countries will be represented in a parade of nations.

Arts in the Heart is a showcase and salute to the area's various ethnic groups.

One of the festival's highlights is an international food court, the Global Village, featuring the cuisine of more than 35 countries. It's a chance to munch on bratwurst, pigs' feet and baklava all in the same place.

The festival is also a showcase for Augusta's performing arts organizations and local and regional visual artists and crafts people. More than 60 artists and crafts people will display pottery, jewelry, wooden toys, metal sculpture and other items.

There will also be seven stages of continuous live entertainment Saturday and Sunday, with more than 100 performances by local, regional and international artists scheduled.

People can gain access to all events by purchasing $3 badges at the festival gates, which are valid for the entire weekend.

Organizers are expecting 70,000 visitors for the three-day event.

Free shuttles will take patrons to satellite locations, including the Morris Museum of Art, Artists' Row, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, the Augusta-Richmond County Museum and Fort Discovery.

At the closing ceremonies at 6 p.m. Sunday at Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Mayor Bob Young will announce next year's featured ethnic group.

Brenda Durant, executive director of the arts council, would not reveal the next featured ethnic group, but she did say, "It's the fastest-growing (ethnic group) in America."

What: Arts in the Heart of Augusta

When: 6:30-8:30 tonight, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Riverwalk Augusta, from Eighth Street to Ninth Street

How much: $2 in advance, $3 at gate

Phone: 826-4702



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