Sarasota Chalk Festival Opens With Costume Gala

Arts & Culture

Revelers and supporters gathered at the Venice Community Center for A Faux Feathers, Funs and Fur Affair to celebrate the opening of the 7th Annual Sarasota Chalk Festival, in Venice for the first time. With artists on hand from over 28 different countries, all gathered to donate their time and craft to the festival, it was an opportunity for the community to not only support the festival, but also to meet and mingle with the creators themselves.

Running on this year’s theme – extinct and endangered plants and animals – many of the hundreds attending did so in the garb of their feathered and furry comrades. Many cat ears were to be found, as well as great feathery headdresses and a man who looked to be a bumblebee, but perhaps was just a fan of stripes.

With crowds milling through the wicker tables and chairs, potted plants and chest-high tables, sipping drinks, chowing down and dancing to live renditions of classics such as “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Let’s Stay Together” from doo wop performer Kim Jenkins, the affair took on the alluring air of night-club-meets-sock-hop, hip yet classic.

One particular partygoer, a fan of the festival since its inception, danced through the crowd decked head to toe in vibrant plumage.

“I’ve been coming since the very beginning,” she said, adjusting her feathery blouse, which like her skirt and bird-feet-booties, she made herself. “It’s such a great festival and Venice is a great place for it.”

Although Kim Jenkins eventually left the stage and turned the mic over to local DJ and musician Christopher Wanta, the silent auction ran all night, featuring an array of items from jewelry and wine tastings to paintings and books from local artists, and even a hand-carved wooden iguana from Indonesia. All items were donated by local artists and businesses.

“The Venice community is very enthusiastic and very supportive of the things that happen in their city. They take ownership,” said Denise Kowal, founder and organizer of the Sarasota Chalk Festival, dressed for the night like a bright pink flamingo, with a towering headdress and feathers painted down her arm, likely the work of Chalk Festival regular and renowned body artist Mythica Von Griffyn, who was on hand painting faces and arms for adventurous Venetians.

But as grand as the party was, it’s important to remember that it’s just the beginning. At the airport, the race to make a Guinness World Record continues. And starting tomorrow, the artists and festivalgoers will take to the streets, turning asphalt into canvas and parking lots into murals.

“That’s when we really cover the whole town in art and it becomes a walking museum,” said Kowal. “We’re really excited.”

The Chalk Festival has officially landed and runs until Nov. 17th.

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