FORT MEADE — A bevy of artists, musicians and food vendors will descend on downtown Fort Meade on Saturday as the community heralds its inaugural festival of arts and crafts.
“Our goal here is to bring the community together,” said Debra Howell, a member of the project’s organizing committee.
From antique cars to a steel drum band, from a talk on the community’s rich history to chicken dinners and student art, the festival runs the gamut of creativity, she said.
The Broadway Prism Arts and Crafts Festival will kick off at 9 a.m. and continue through 5 p.m. along West Broadway Street in downtown Fort Meade. An estimated 25 artists and crafters will display their talent, Howell said, hoping to win one of the four cash awards to be presented later in the day.
Best of Show will take $1,000, and other recipients will receive $500, $300 and $100.
Dorothy Lewis, co-chairwoman of the festival with Howell, said the festival is an outgrowth of the Fort Meade Neighborhood Development Project, which hopes to build a community park on a donated parcel of land at Martin Luther King Boulevard and U.S. 17 South in Fort Meade. Funds generated during the festival will be used toward developing the park.
Meri Mass, executive director of the Polk Arts Alliance, applauded the effort.
“They have been working on this for a couple years, and it’s all come together,” she said this week. “They have some great artists in Fort Meade, but they have never really come together before. I don’t think a lot of people realize what a treasure Fort Meade is.
“Polk County is like a great tapestry,” she said, “and this festival is another thread, another piece in that puzzle.”
The community of about 5,800 residents was the site of the Polk County’s first settlement nearly two centuries ago. Historian and Fort Meade native Canter Brown Jr. will talk about the community’s roots and early years during a presentation at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
An estimated 75 pieces of student art will be on display during the festival, including submissions in a poster contest illustrating butterflies and pollinators along the Peace River, which curves along the city’s eastern boundary.
“These posters were submitted by elementary and high school students, and they are truly remarkable,” Howell said.
To expand the festival’s scope even more, the Historical Society of Fort Meade will host an antique car show Saturday, said Don Marchman, the society’s president. Volunteers also will host the museum’s annual Country Fair, including $10 chicken dinners and a cake auction.
“This is our annual fundraiser,'' Marchman said, “and we partnered with the arts festival this time. We’ll also have the museum open for tours during the day.”
Admission to the museum is free, he said, but donations are accepted. The two-story museum, housed in one of Fort Meade’s early schoolhouses, is located at West Broadway Street and Tecumseh Avenue.
“We’re excited to see this festival come together,” Howell said, “and our intent is to make it an annual event. If we only do it one year, we have failed. This is our legacy to Fort Meade, and we want to see it continue.”
Suzie Schottelkotte can be reached at email@example.com or 863-533-9070. Follow her on Twitter @southpolkscene.