Reno's Monthlong Artown Festival Underway

RENO, Nev. (AP) - The 13th annual Artown festival is off with a bang. And a boom. And drums and horns and acrobats.

More than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Reno Tuesday night as the MarchFourth Marching Band opened the monthlong arts and cultural festival with a procession near the Truckee River.

"Eat your heart out Washington and California," Mayor Bob Cashell said at the opening ceremonies. "We've got the best right here."

The festival offers free events each day of July in a downtown park along the Truckee River as well as ticketed-performances at area stages and theaters by headliners ranging from Ringo Starr and Wynton Marsalis to the Harlem Gospel Choir and the Hubbard Street
Dance Chicago troupe.

The National Endowment for the Arts, which is supporting Artown this year with a $15,000 grant, calls it "one of the most comprehensive festivals in the country."

Dozens of children and their parents gathered in McKinley Park before the start of Tuesday night's parade to get their faces painted and design T-shirts.

"It's a good way to expose my children to the arts," said Michael Thomas, 37, a newcomer to the celebration. "When people think of art, they think it's static with a bunch of museums. But this is different. It has a pulse."

As her daughter and her daughter's friend skipped ahead of her, Tamara Sandoval of Sparks said she had never been to the opening

"Usually, we attend later in the month, for the shows and exhibits," said Sandoval, 30. "This atmosphere draws you in."

The night continued with performances from Eldorado's FloorPlay, a ballroom dancing performance group, and Flexion, an aerial and stilt performance. As FloorPlay began to dance, Barbara Jean of Sparks said she loved coming out to Artown events.

"I love the community, and it's amazing what they do for us each year," Jean said.

The first event 13 years ago drew about 30,000 to a three-week festival. Last year, more than 350,000 visitors attended with an estimated $15.7 million impact on the local economy.

Musical highlights throughout the month include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, clarinetist David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness! Ensemble, Japanese-inspired drumming by San Jose Taiko and Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez, a premier mariachi band.

The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction has been scheduled in Reno July 25-26 in conjunction with Artown along with such multicultural events as the International Film Series, Festival of Russian Music, Gospel Bluegrass, Native American Festival, Aloha Festival, Food For the Soul World Music Series and 41st annual Basque Festival.

The Movies in the Park series offers free showings of motion pictures ranging from Disney's "The Lion King" to Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo."

The Nevada Opera will present "Brundibar," which originally was performed by children in Nazi concentration camps, and the TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada is doing "Goldilocks On Trial," a
courtroom farce dealing with the aftermath of the Goldilocks and
the Three Bears fairy tale.

Numerous hands-on events are geared toward children and teenagers, many who come to frolic in the water park but end up staying to try their hand at painting, sculpting, dancing or acting in a play at the Discover the Arts workshops.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)