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Go Ask Mom

Artsplosure packs downtown Raleigh with free, family-friendly fun

Posted May 12, 2014
Updated May 16, 2014

— For the 35th year this year, Artsplosure will pepper downtown Raleigh with artists, crafts, live performances and big puppets.

The annual arts festival runs Saturday and Sunday. It's free. It's fun. And, this year, there's even more for kids than usual.

"We probably have more stuff for kids this year than we have had for a lot of years," said Terri Dollar, Artsplosure program director. "There's a ton of great stuff."

Moore Square is front and center for family activities with the popular Kidsplosure stage and crafts. The area offers something to do from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. They include a Tanglewood Puppets performance, Paperhand Puppet Intervention parades, The Red Trouser Show (more on that in a bit), and performances from local school and camp groups.

The free crafts are ocean-themed this year. Kids can make fish windsocks, jelly fish and crabs. Be sure to check out artist David Edgar's "Plastiquarium" on Moore Square for inspiration. Local middle and high school students have made brightly colored fish from recyclable plastic containers.

Back this year is the Artsplosure caterpillar - a giant puppet created by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention. Festival goers get inside the puppet to move it around Moore Square. It returns after a five-year hiatus for the festival's 35th anniversary, Dollar tells me. 

And Sandy Feat makes its annual appearance at the event. The team will carve a sculpture from sand on Moore Square. There's plenty of sand for the kids to play with too. I know more than a few parents will be hanging out right in this spot most of the day while their little ones get sandy.

The Red Trouser Show will perform multiple times Saturday and Sunday. The high-end street theater show features duo David Graham and Tobin Renwick, who are founding members of the Flying Gravity Circus. The two are acrobats, comedians and jugglers who have performed around the world. I really look forward to catching this one.

They'll perform their shows, which last about 40 minutes, at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, on the Kidsplosure stage. You'll also find them at 4 p.m. and 5:45 p.m., Saturday, and noon, 3:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., Sunday, on the Under the Oaks stage, which is on the east side of Moore Square.

Across Moore Square in the Marbles Kids Museum courtyard, you'll hear the beat of a drum both Saturday and Sunday. The courtyard will offer all kinds of percussion performances, including steel drums and drum circles. Performances are noon to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m., Sunday. 

A few blocks away on City Plaza will be Art Beat. It's open 11 a..m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Dollar tells me they'll be putting sod down on top of the concrete of City Plaza to create a "relaxing hideaway" in center city. The space will be filled with traditional and innovative musical instruments (some use LED illuminations and bio-reactive technology), which the public is welcome to play. It's free and definitely worth exploring with the kids.

The art market, enlarged this year because of downtown construction, will feature more than 180 artists and vendors. The day also includes food and many more live performances, including Tift Merritt at 8 p.m., Saturday. 

The festival will draw thousands downtown. A couple of tips: If you want to avoid the crowd and plan on pushing a stroller around, get there at 10 a.m., Sunday, for the soft opening of the art market. Also, download the mobile app (search for Artpslosure 2014). It has some great information about parking, schedules and more. 


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  • recontwice May 16, 2014

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    Wouldnt it be better to serve your whole viewing area rather than the precious few that surround your home base?

  • Typical WRAL Commenter May 16, 2014

    I avoid PROUDGRANDMOMMA at all costs.

  • Andrew Stephenson May 16, 2014
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    I work downtown. I've always felt safe. Most parking decks are free, at least the ones operated by McLaurin/owned by the City.

    Downtown parking is pretty awesome. I park at the City Center/Red Hat deck and the Blount Street one all the time. The gate is up on weekends. Free after 7pm on weekdays. The arms remain down and you hae to take a ticket between 7pm and 10:30pm on weekdays, but the cost to leave will be $0.

  • archmaker May 16, 2014

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    we won't miss you.

    if you want to stay away from thieves and hustlers, then avoid 16 W Jones Street. It is a known haven.

  • Cleanup on Aisle Cool May 16, 2014

    Great write-up WRAL! And thanks for the Sunday-morning stroller tip.

  • George Herbert May 16, 2014
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    WRAL is based in Raleigh. It makes sense for the station to promote events in Raleigh more so than ones in Durham. Artsplosure is also a much larger event. The expected attendance at Bimbé is 10,000, while the expected attendance at Artsplosure is 80,000.

  • Itsmyopinion67 May 16, 2014

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    Are you sure you attend the one in Raleigh? You make it sound like Detroit! Raleigh always does a great job with their downtown events...and RPD is dang good at keeping things safe. Just confused by your comments....

  • recontwice May 16, 2014

    Shame that WWRL wont give equal exposure to the Bimbe Festival which is also this weekend!!

  • George Herbert May 16, 2014
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    Parking is free in the state government lots on weekends. ProudGrandmomma is an alarmist. Two of the biggest ones are the surface lot between Blount, Wilmington, Edenton, and Jones and the new Green Square deck on the corner of Edenton and McDowell.

  • proudgrandmomma May 16, 2014

    I avoid downtown Raleigh at all costs. Parking in a safe place is almost impossible and then there are thieves and hustlers., I bet this so-call "art" festival will bring them crawling out of the wood works!!