Arts in the Heart of Augusta has come a long way from its days in the Municipal Building parking lot to one of the premier festivals in the Southeast.
And it’s back for its 35th year Sept. 18-20.
“That first year had one stage,” said Brenda Durant, executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, which puts on the event each year.
The festival has won numerous awards including the 2014 Southeast Event and Festival Association’s silver kaleidoscope for best festival.
Ethnic organizations joined soon and brought the much loved food element to the festival. This proved so popular, Durant said, that other festivals emerged.
The event’s location has bounced from place to place over the years including stints on the grounds of the Old Academy of Richmond County building, Riverwalk and on Reynolds Street until it settled at Broad Street and the Augusta Common.
About 70,000 people attend the festival each year; however, that number could be greater because people often go to the festival, then give their badges to other people to use, Durant said.
This year’s festival features 130 artisans, five stages with dozens of performers, lots of authentic ethnic food and an expanded children’s area.
Among the headlining performers are Sandy B and The Allstars who will open the festival with the national anthem and play through until the festival ends Friday.
Patrick Blanchard and Friends with special guests Carey Murdock and Bobby Houch will be on the global stage from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Blanchard, a native Augustan now living in the Atlanta area, returns to perform after a five-year hiatus.
Also, the Amos Hoffman Quartet will close out the festival from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday with The Carving Project. Hoffman is an Israeli jazz guitarist and oud player, known for fusing Middle Eastern sounds with modern jazz.
Broad Street, between Seventh and 10th streets, with space on Broad will be set up for the 130 artists participating in the fine arts and crafts market.
“We have 60 new artists and 70 returning ones,” said Sallie West, who oversees that portion of the festival.
Artisans represent 17 states including Hawaii, Massachusetts and Minnesota. There will be an array of items for sale with the top three categories of jewelry, paintings and clothing.
“The artists have a variety of all that’s well made and a variety of price points so my daughter can come and by a bracelet with her allowance,” she said.
In addition to the artist market, there are five stages with performances taking place throughout the weekend.
Among the many performances will be those by youth dance schools, cultural organizations, community theater groups and bands playing many genres of music. For jazz lovers, there’s a stage devoted to that musical style.
And the performances don’t end on the stages. There will be street performers at various points during the weekend.
The Singing Princesses and Pirates of Augusta as well as Lunatrix Arts performing a secret circus, and the Cycle Circus with its unique take on spin art will be part of the festivities as well.
In the children’s area, children can get their art passport stamped as they participate in crafts and activities. There will be 13 free activities in all including eight crafts. There will be a chalk art zone, face painting and tie dye. There’s also a young artists’ market.
Entry to Arts in The Heart requires a badge. It costs $5 in advance at SunTrust Bank, Vintage Ooollee, 1121 Broad St. and New Moon Cafe, 116 Laurens St. in Aiken or $10 at the gate. Ages 10 and younger are admitted free.
For more information, see artsintheheartofaugusta.com.