On a sun-splashed afternoon, large crowds moved through opening day of the Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s 2014 Festival of the Arts where, as usual, the forecast was a hot topic.
The annual question is when, rather than if, it will rain. So far, the weather looks mild compared to years past. The other forecast on patrons’ minds is about food, and what new delicacies aside from the obligatory Strawberries Newport, Indian Taco and smoked turkey leg await on Food Row. This year, a couple of veteran operators bring a new concept to downtown’s annual art showcase.
Robert Painter and Toni Hoffman helped resuscitate the Iguana Lounge brand of the 1990s with Iguana Mexican Grill downtown and Iguana Cafe in Nichols Hills Plaza. Now they’ve revived Guthrie’s Blue Belle Saloon into the Blue Belle Grill. Instead of bringing Iguana’s Mexican flavors to the Festival of the Arts, Painter and Hoffman decided to bring the comfort foods of Blue Belle downtown.
“We’ve got fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and handmade blueberry pie,” Painter said. “And for our vegetarian friends, we’ve got green-chile artichoke dip.”
Painter said he and Hoffman joined a group of partners last June to take over the Guthrie building and brand that predates statehood.
“We are trying to emphasize ‘grill’ more than ‘saloon,’” Painter said. “But we offer plenty to drink. And Guthrie is only 26 minutes away.”
The Blue Belle booth at the Festival of the Arts joins more than 25 other vendors providing about 30 food booths around the grounds. Other new entries include Mandy’s Filipino Food and Polynesian Taste, which is offering barbecue chicken, the noodle dish pancit, potato salad, rice and Filipino egg rolls called lumpia.
Back are favorites such as Craig and Carter’s Famous Fish Tacos, Cafe Do Brasil, Interurban, and Inca Trail and its dazzling ceviche.
The National Weather Service forecast for Oklahoma City looks milder than usual for the festival. A 40 percent chance of thunderstorms is forecast Wednesday night, with a slight chance of a storm on Thursday and clear skies and sunshine projected Friday. Storm chances return Saturday and Sunday.
Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Pets are not allowed.
The Midtown Renaissance lots just south of Reno between Walker and Harvey are an easy walk to the festival. Paid parking is available in lots and garages throughout downtown, plus there is limited street parking around the perimeter of the event. For a map of available parking lots, go to www.parkingokc.com.