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Artwalk: Festival of the arts picking up the pace

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Cathy Dobson

While most of us are just waking up to spring, Ashley Tanguay has been thinking summer for weeks now.

She is co-ordinating the 13th annual Sarnia Artwalk, a festival of the arts taking place Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7.

The event has grown up over the years to encompass food, dance, art, music, and multiculturalism and attracts an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 to downtown Sarnia every year, says Tanguay.

The city closes off Christina Street from George to Wellington for the outdoor show, making room for 200 artisans and community groups.

Registration for vendors has opened and is filling quickly, said Tanguay.

“Register as soon as you can for the best spots.”

The not-for-profit festival began in 2002 as a “big, community showcase to celebrate the arts,” says co-founder Shawn McKnight.  Those early years had a shoestring budget of about $12,000.

This year’s festival will cost approximately $85,000.

“This is a free event and we intend to keep it that way, so we depend on money from vendor registration, sponsorships and donations,” said McKnight.

He’s concerned about the level of corporate sponsorship this year. Local companies are indicating lower oil prices could impact their level of support.

“This being an industrial town, it’s causing some difficulty,” McKnight said.

But there’s also lots of good news.

The TD Bank just announced it is providing $7,000 to expand the festival’s multi-cultural village in partnership with the Sarnia Lambton Local Immigration Partnership (LIP).

“This level of sponsorship is letting us grow, allowing us to hire entertainers and make the multi-cultural village a bigger production,” said Tanguay.

And international students from Lambton College are creating exhibits to reflect their homelands in China, Brazil, Nigeria and India.

Tanguay said a Festival passport is being launched this year so families and kids can get stamps as they stop at the various villages within Artwalk.

“I’ve always described it as a group of festivals within a festival,” said McKnight.  “We all support each other and make it one big successful event.”

Entertainment will be offered on a stage in the multicultural village, as well as at a second stage organized by The Refined Fool Brewing Company on Davis Street.

Apart from vendors and sponsors, Artwalk 2015 is also looking for volunteers. About 50 are needed for three-hour shifts that might include set up, staffing the info booth or helping in the children’s village.

For more, call 519-491-0366 or email [email protected].  Volunteer and vendor registration is also available online at www.sarniaartwalk.com.

Do you know someone doing great things to contribute to Sarnia’s cultural community?  Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

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