SARASOTA, POST EVENT - The decision to return the Chalk Festival to its original Burns Square location for its 11th edition April 5 - 7, 2019 came about because of the postponement of the November 2018 festival due to Red Tide. The November Venice Airport Fairgrounds venue is surrounded by water and the bloom of toxic red dinoflagellates made it impossible for the artists, volunteers and spectators to be outdoors for any extended length of time. Time outdoors is what the artists need most as they spend upward of 12 hours a day working on their pavement paintings.
Making the decision to postpone this international festival was a massive undertaking financially and logistically. The festival has the status that ensures every pavement event around the world do not conflict with its dates and vise versa. Artists had been working for months, collaboratively in advance, investing hours designing the installations they will present at the festival. Artists had secured time off from responsibilities at work, home, and school so they could participate weeks in advance on large group projects such as the renovation and redesign of the Shark world record. Major sponsors had stepped up, such as Fairfield Inn and Suites in Venice blocking rooms for the Shark restoration. Insurance policies and suppliers were paid. Permits, hotels, flights, and art supplies were secured and delivered. Hundreds of artists and volunteers as well as vendors, spectators and sponsors who would be affected had to be notified.
Sarasota became the obvious choice when new dates were being explored and options for a spring festival in Venice diminished. As season approached, Venice Island with three bridges on and off couldn't handle the increased traffic from the festival when the island winter population surged and winter residents returned. Even when April became a viable option to host, the airport was already booked with other events. Festival organizers also wanted to be mindful of other major pavement art festivals, rainfall and temperatures.
The 3-day length of the festival was chosen because it did not require a hearing before the city commissioners. Asking for more days would require more steps, more people and more uncertainty adding more risk that the organization was unwilling to take. The last time organizers held a 3-day Chalk Festival was back in 2009. Hosting a 3-day festival meant volunteers had to work all night prior to the 8 AM opening Friday morning. It also meant volunteers had to work all night Sunday night after the 8 PM closing. This meant many volunteers would be working with very little sleep throughout the three days.
With all factors considered April 5 - 7 was chosen and the process to host the festival in Sarasota began. Since it had been six years, nothing was assumed and we sought guidance from the Sarasota events department. Within days the application was underway. The permitting process with the City of Sarasota was daunting compared to the stream-line process in Venice. Financial support was non-existent while Venice, even though small amounts, has an easy formula for financial support. The Sarasota final permit was not approved until two days prior to the actual festival with every step leading up to the approval drawn out.
The April planning moved forward with caution because the city reminded organizers multiple times that the permit had not been approved. Ultimately decisions and plans had to move forward as flights had to be booked, volunteers secured and housing, food, supplies, logistics and installations approved and paid for. Even the City of Sarasota required several thousand upfront. It was a risk working with the city, a risk that cost a lot of money, but moving forward was the only option if the festival was to take place.
Since the Chalk Festival warehouse is in Venice the organization had to rent trucks and secure warehouse space (thank you to Diana Paver) in Sarasota weeks in advance for staging.
The construction of displays and the Kurt Wenner Illusion experience took weeks but thanks to Venice volunteers such as John Calder and his friends it came together.
Many volunteers were artists that arrived early to help prior to their participation such as Wayne and Cheryl Renshaw from California, Tonya Youngberg from Utah, Cesar Paredes from Peru, Raul Domenzain from Mexico, Bridget Lyons from Tampa; other artists just wanted to help make it a success such as Luther Rosebaro and Bill Baranowski.
International and national event organizers, museum owners and others interested in how the festival is run volunteered or showed up to support us. Long standing captains traveled from Venice such as Russ Bullis, Pat Waguespack and Chris Hanrahan, and still, a whole new batch of volunteers had to be recruited quickly. Team captains activated roughly 200 volunteers by going door to door to organization, placing ads, setting up at markets, running social media campaigns and enlisting past volunteers.
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