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Akron Arts Expo big effort for recreation bureau staff

7/17/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

Pam Gerus, of West Akron, is shown with an art piece from San Diego artist Russell Peters at a past Akron Arts Expo.
Photo: Scott Horstman
WEST AKRON — It’s all hands on deck for City of Akron Recreation Bureau employees when the 35th annual Akron Art Expo opens July 24 with the ninth annual Taste of Akron.

Brittany Schmoekel, community event coordinator for the City of Akron, said the four-day event at Hardesty Park, 1615 W. Market St., is a big commitment for the 60 permanent and seasonal recreation bureau staff members. Set-up begins as early as 6 a.m. on the opening day, and a typical day during the expo means staffing from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., she said.

“We have a great team here,” Schmoekel said.

Everyone from Recreation Center supervisors to part-time and seasonal employees are involved with operations of the expo. In addition, Schmoekel said 40 volunteers assist staff members on Saturday and Sunday of the event.

New this year for the Taste of Akron is early ticket sales to reduce waiting time. The $2 tickets used to purchase food and beverage samples from nearly 30 restaurants and food trucks will be sold beginning one hour before the event opens at 6 p.m., Schmoekel said. Samples are available for one, two or three tickets. Earlier ticket sales are in response to long lines last year.

“It was beautiful weather and there was a great turnout,” Schmoekel said. “We’re hoping for that again this year.”

Popular local band Get on Up will perform from 6 to 9 p.m., and the Ohio Burn Unit, featuring fire eaters, fire jugglers, dancers and stilt walkers, will perform at 9 p.m.

Expo events continue July 25 with the 16th annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction. The event, open to those ages 21 and older, will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Advance purchase tickets are $40 each or $75 for two. More than 150 wines and a number of beers from The House of LaRose and Thirsty Dog will be available for sampling, Schmoekel said. Guests will be served heavy hot and cold hors d’oeuvres catered by Mark DiFeo, and ticket holders receive a souvenir wine glass, she added.

A limited number of tickets are available. Tickets can be purchased by calling 330-375-2836 or at the City of Akron Community Events Facebook page under the “Events” tab. Tickets soon will be available at the website, www.akron artsexpo.org, Schmoeckel said. Payment for online ticket sales is via PayPal. Tickets also will be sold at the door, Schmoeckel said.

Wine tasting patrons may bid on more than 100 silent auction items including art work from art expo exhibitors and items donated by local businesses. The wine tasting and silent auction are fundraisers for the expo, with proceeds offsetting the cost of artist awards, children’s activities and performances, Schmoeckel said.

The first of two free performances by Neos Dance Theatre follows the wine tasting. The free performances, at 8:45 p.m. June 25 and 26 are part of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, sponsored by the City of Akron. An interactive children’s performance at 7:45 p.m. by The University of Akron Dance Institute precedes the ballet both nights. [For more on the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, see related story on Page 20.]

The heart of the expo, a juried art show and sale, is July 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 165 artisans from 20 states are expected to set up shop on the grassy areas of the park. As usual, the expo, which is as popular with artists as it is with those who attend the free show, is at full capacity, Schmoeckel said. Each year, 80 to 100 prospective vendors are not selected for the juried show, she said. Even the waiting list is comprised of juried hopefuls, she said.

Artists are chosen from four categories — two-dimensional art, three-dimensional art, functional and ornamental, Schmoeckel said.

“That encompasses everything — paintings, jewelry, glassware. …” she said. “Everything has to be handmade.”

Although there are several artists who repeatedly earn a place in the expo, being accepted once does not guarantee a spot in next year’s show, she said. Only 21 artists — the award winners — are guaranteed a spot, she added.

During both days of the art expo and sale, children of all ages can visit the Children’s Tent for free hands-on artistic and educational crafts sponsored by Pat Catan’s, face painting and live performances from acts like a magician and The Monkey Man, Schmoeckel said.

A continuous silent auction in the special events tent gives expo visitors the opportunity to bid on original artwork donated by Akron Arts Expo artists and items donated by area businesses. Auctions close on the hour from noon to 4 p.m. July 26-27. Auction winners do not need to be present at the auction’s close, but all items must be picked up by 4 p.m. June 27. Cash, Visa and Mastercard are accepted for payment of auction items.

Additional new programming in the special events tent includes an Akron Zoo show, origami demonstrations and a mini wine tasting sponsored by Moe’s in Cuyahoga Falls, Schmoeckel said.

The expo closes June 27 with a 7:30 p.m. performance by the Akron Symphony orchestra.

Some free parking is available at the park. Free shuttles will be available July 26 and 27 to those who park at Firestone High School, 333 Rampart Ave., and on the east side of the Akron Radio Center, 1795 W. Market St., Schmoeckel said.

For more information, go to www.akronartsexpo.org or call 330-375-2836

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