STUART, Fla. — The introduction of a patron's program, an expanded entertainment lineup and a freshly renovated venue to showcase the event helped mark the 25th anniversary of ArtsFest.
Held along East Ocean Boulevard and in Memorial Park in Stuart, ArtsFest is organized by the Arts Council of Martin County and features 150 artists from around the country. It continues Sunday.
Nancy Turrell, the council's executive director, said the event has consistently grown over the years and that by Saturday afternoon, attendance was "absolutely on track" to reach 20,000 people.
To commemorate the 25-year milestone, a patron's program was launched modeled on ones successfully used at other festivals in Florida.
With a minimum pledge of $350, patrons receive a $250 gift card to be used with any ArtsFest artist and access to the VIP tent and parking. About 25 patrons had committed their support by Saturday.
"It guarantees a certain volume of sales," said Turrell. "It's one of those word-of-mouth grass roots things that will double or triple next year."
Ramping up the level of entertainment with a broad array of both professional and amateur talent also was intended to create excitement for the anniversary.
"We focused on making sure the stages were filled with entertainment that represented Martin County," Turrell said.
County Commissioner Doug Smith said county officials always are looking for ways to combine culture and tourism and that ArtsFest definitely fits the bill.
"It exposes everybody to the arts, but also drives the economy," Smith said. "It is something this community completely embraces."
Palm City residents Wendy Bemis and Jim Cape already had made several purchases by midafternoon, including some metalwork, photographs and hand-stitched items.
"There was some great work here," said Bemis.
Cape was particularly intrigued by some of the artists' perspectives. "There were a couple of artists that showed a tremendous sense of humor — colorful and funny," he said.
Glass artists Steve and Sherry Whorl have exhibited at ArtsFest for several years. With studios in Palmdale and Maryland, the couple travel extensively to sell their creations.
"We do about 45 shows a year and this is really one of the nicer shows we do," said Steve Whorl. "We depend upon a well-organized, well-run, well-attended show."
Opting to set up in one of 40 booths available in Memorial Park this year, the Whorls were pleased with their choice.
"This is beautiful," said Steve Whorl. "It's a great addition to the community."
If You Go
What: 25th Annual ArtsFest hosted by the Arts Council of Martin County
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Memorial Park and East Ocean Blvd., downtown Stuart
Admission: free; $3 suggested donation