In recent years, the Sarasota Chalk Festival has become a draw for professional street artists from all over the world, and has grown to be the biggest festival of its kind in the country. Yet we all know that chalk has a deep association with childhood. Whether it’s drawing hopscotch on the street or learning everything from your ABCs to algebra on a chalkboard, we all have a certain nostalgia for the medium. In fact, when the festival began in 2007, the Children’s Chalk Playground was the most popular part of the festival, giving local children license to draw in chalk on the city streets of downtown Sarasota.
This year’s theme, “Circus City USA,” makes it perfect entertainment for the whole family. A variety of international aerial artists and circus acts will perform during the run of the Chalk Festival from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6. Some highlights include the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Nik Wallenda (aerial performer from the Flying Wallendas), Circus Sarasota and the Sailor Circus. Fuzión Dance Artists will create a site-specific dance responding to a 3D pavement piece by Kurt Wenner. Click here for the full performance and event schedule.
Perhaps the most important part for young people will be the children’s free-form section called “Little Chalkers,” which will run on Oak Street from Pineapple to Palm. As Festival Director Denise Kowal stated, “It’s a place where anyone can create a masterpiece of their own.”
This year, one of the major sponsors for Little Chalkers is Jeremiah’s KidsServe, a philanthropic project started by two brothers: Jeremiah, who is nine, and Nathanael, who is four. I love the idea that this is sponsored by kids helping other kids develop their creativity. Denise said that in keeping with the circus theme, there will be face painting, magic, clowns, and circus artists performing in the Little Chalkers area throughout the festival to keep the youngest visitors engaged and enthralled.
For older kids, there will be a student section in Dolphin Alley for middle schoolers and up to receive instruction in chalk drawing from pavement artists. Furthermore, Denise has made some logistical improvements that will make visiting the festival easier for families, particularly those with very young children. We had a bit of trouble negotiating the festival with our daughter’s stroller last year, but Denise said this year, all traffic will go in one direction. This should drastically improve sight-lines and streamline the process of traveling through the Festival, ensuring that you get the chance to see all the exciting and innovative work that will be on display.
The Festival is a great opportunity for our whole community to gather together and welcome visitors from all over the world who come to Sarasota to partake in this one-of-kind happening. It also gives the community the chance to celebrate and salute our roots in circus culture, which dates back to the 1920s.
This festival gives families the chance to explore pavement art and talk with their young ones about things that are here one day and gone the next. Since we all have to face impermanence in our lives, this is a great way to teach children the value of enjoying every moment while it lasts. Surely they will create memories from their experiences at the Chalk Festival that will last a lifetime.