The Gasparilla Festival of the Arts showcases 233 of the world's most talented artists who "turn Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park into a museum." Over 100,000 visitors come to the free festival to take in art displays, live entertainment, children's activities and food vendors. Over 1,000 artists apply each year for the 233 spots and hope to win a portion of the $74,500 in awards..
The festival is one of the country's premiere outdoor art events and has a rich history in the City of Tampa. The forerunner of the festival was the juried art exhibit at the Florida State Fair. The best art from around the state was exhibited at the State Fair, held in Tampa every February in conjunction with the City's Gasparilla pirate invasion. When the Fair moved to a site outside of its downtown origin, the art exhibit evolved into a display of local art work. Art activists realized that the informality of the State Fair exhibit had brought diverse, high quality artwork to many people who normally never ventured into museums and they wanted that to continue. The concept of a sidewalk art festival was conceived in the summer of 1970 and the first show occurred in 1971.
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