For the 34th year, Artplosure, the major festival of arts, crafts, entertainment, performances and much more, will take over downtown Raleigh.
The festival runs Friday afternoon to Sunday at points across the city, but mainly in and around Moore Square and City Plaza.
As I always do, I checked in with Terri Dollar, the long-time organizer, to see what's new and what families shouldn't miss.
Here's what she recommends:
Let's start with the Pittsburg-based Squonk Opera "Go Roadshow," which Dollar describes as a parade, musical and street spectacle all rolled into one.
"It's the coolest thing," she tells me. "Kids are going to be mesmerized by this thing. It's a 34-foot monster truck retrofitted with a calliope with a grand piano that spins."
And then there's the blimp that flies over head and more to create quite a show. There are 10 performances on City Plaza, where you'll also find some food trucks and street performers.
Shows are scheduled for 1 p.m , 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday; 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., Saturday; and noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Sunday. The shows are free. (And so is are all of the other activities at Artsplosure).
Starting Wednesday, you might see some decorated pianos sprinkled around downtown Raleigh streets. They are part of the Raleigh Street Piano Project, which involves rescuing six pianos destined for the landfill. They've been decorated by local nonprofits and groups that work with people with special needs. The public is invited to step up and play a tune on any of the pianos. They'll remain downtown for a couple of weeks.
As part of the project, Dollar has been collecting toy pianos for the last year on Craigslist. She'll have about 20 small toy pianos on the courtyard at Marbles Kids Museum (where you'll also see one of the rescued pianos) out from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Kidsplosure on Moore Square includes the usual hands-on activities and exhibits, including a tube garden art project where kids can be part of the creative process. Paperhand Puppet Intervention also returns to the festival this year. The group, known for its giant puppets, took a break from it last year. You can catch them on Sunday.
On the stages, Grammy winner Barbara Bailey Hutchinson will perform. Hutchinson won the Grammy for best musical recording for children in 1996. She also has sung for hundreds of commercials for McDonald's, Hallmark Cards, Heinz, and other national advertisers, according to her website. She is an artist as well and has worked with local students on self portraits (which you can see in the lobby of PNC Bank on Fayetteville Street during Artsplosure).
Hutchinson's Facebook page says she'll be performing at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, on the Kidsplosure stage, and 1 p.m., Saturday, on the main stage, both on Moore Square.
And finally, a tip: In addition to the performances and activities for kids, Artplosure also features an art market with 170 juried visual artists and crafters along city streets. The market hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday. If you plan to go with a stroller and want to avoid a crowd, Dollar recommends the early Sunday morning hours as the best time to go.
Check Out & About's calendar listing for more information.