A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Paseo Arts Festival brightens first holiday of summer
Local talents performing at this year’s Memorial Day weekend celebration are donating even their tips to help fellow Oklahomans affected by this week’s devastating tornadoes.
The Oklahoma musicians who make music at the Paseo Arts Festival don’t get paid to play. The only cash they pocket comes from tips that festival-goers leave at their feet.
Now, several of the local talents performing at this year’s Memorial Day weekend celebration are donating even their tips to help fellow Oklahomans affected by this week’s devastating tornadoes.
“The tips are the only thing they get; I think they get a drink ticket,” said Amy Young, the festival’s music chairwoman. “It’s so kind of them to donate all of their time anyway just for the Paseo Arts Association. Now, to hear many of them say that they would even donate their tips … I just really admire all of them. They’re really giving, good people.”
The 37th Annual Paseo Arts Festival will offer more than 80 artist booths, two live entertainment stages, children’s activities and 15 food vendors from Saturday through Monday in the historic Paseo Arts District, between NW 28 and Walker and NW 30 and Dewey.
The free festival will provide attendees with a chance to be giving, too, Young said. A donation drop-off point will be set up at the South Stage at the corner Paseo and Walker. Festival-goers are invited to give monetary donations that will go to the Red Cross of Central Oklahoma or nonperishable food items for the Regional Food Bank to help with those organizations’ tornado relief efforts.
“I have been getting offers from people to help, they just don’t know where to go to help,” said Young, who has been volunteering at a shelter for tornado victims at Crossroads Church, 89 and S Shields.
“I just think that Oklahoma is the best. I think we really take care of each other.”
The donation drop might be new, but the Paseo Arts Festival is a longstanding Memorial Day weekend tradition in the historic neighborhood, renowned for its Spanish revival architecture. More than 60,000 people attend the three-day event each year.
Still, the Paseo Arts Association, which organizes the festival, tries to add a few new attractions every year.
“This year we have a coloring contest. Our poster for this year is kind of a graphic rendering of some of the colorful buildings on the street. And the artist that designed that poster for us, Gayle Curry, we asked her to also design one without the colors in it,” said Jennifer Barron, executive director of the Paseo Arts Association.
“Youths can color on them and we’ll select winners in three different age groups. Then, the winners will be displayed … during First Friday (Gallery Walk) in June.”
The coloring contest, along with mask making, clay sculpting and the ever-popular spin art, will be offered in the festival’s Artists of the Future children’s area. In addition, Theatre Upon a StarDanceSwan will invite youngsters to create puppets and puppet shows out of paper inside Paper Play Theatre.
Along with the district’s 20 studios and galleries, which are open during the festival, more than 80 visiting visual artists will exhibit their wares in tents along Paseo Drive, which is closed during the event. The artists will show and sell a variety of works, including paintings, photographs, ceramics, woodwork, glass, jewelry, sculptures and fiber art.
“We have quite a few that are going to be in for the first time this year … and then we have a lot of returning artists,” Barron said. “There are some ceramic artists and glass artists that people will come back for year after year. That’s kind of a fun to see as an event organizer: People come and look for their favorite artists so they can add to a collection.”
Although the event is free, it is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Paseo Arts Association, funding other events like the First Friday Walks, Magic Lantern Celebration and Fairy Ball. Drink, T-shirt and poster sales benefit the association.
Even before many of the musicians — starting with Oklahoma City musician Josh Qualls — started volunteering to donate their tips to tornado relief, Young was pleased with the festival’s sonic offerings.
“We’re really excited about it. You know, we’ve got some people returning that are awesome like Edgar Cruz — a perennial favorite — and then Pidgin Band and Camille Harp, John Calvin and Parker Millsap. And then we’ve got some new people like Beau Jennings,” she said.
“We’ve got lots of really great talent coming in.”
Norman’s Pidgin Band is playing the Paseo event for the third straight year, but this is the first time the group has claimed a Sunday night headlining spot. Young expects the band will turn Sunday night at the festival into a dance party, and she thinks their Afrobeat tunes can get people moving.
“Last year, we had a great dance block party, so I’m hoping the same thing can happen this year,” she said.
After the twister-induced tragedies of the past week, Young said the community could really use a dance-the-night-away soiree.
“I think that music really speaks to people’s emotions for sure. But I think we all need some uplifting and fun times. This has really been a hard thing for our state,” she said.
37th Annual Paseo Arts Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with music until 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with music until 7 p.m. Monday.
Where: Paseo Arts District, between NW 28 and Walker and NW 30 and Dewey.
Information: 525-2688 or www.thepaseo.com.