The Annual Fifth Avenue Arts Festival began in the summer of 1979 in order to share and promote the rich cultural history of the Fifth Avenue/Seminary Lane community. The participation in the first year was fewer than 100 people. A group of people made up of University of Florida students and community residents joined together to organize the event. Lavern Porter Dancers were among the first performers.
Over the last 35+ years, the Festival has grown and now regularly hosts more than 20,000 people annually.
The event features three days of performance and visual arts. Additionally, local businesses and organizations are invited to set up booths on Saturday and Sunday. They provide information about opportunities for both youth and adults in the community.
As a part of Friday Pre-Festival activities, artists go to the public schools to demonstrate their craft. Past artists have included painters Isaac Knight of the original “Highwaymen”, photographer Ronnie Phillips, and performers Atlanta Temba Issa.
On the second day, the Festival officially opens with a Gospel program followed by dancers, local bands, and singers. National headliners have included Jazz singer and musician Pamela Williams and R&B recording stars SOS Band. Historical exhibits are featured, like The Rosewood Exhibit, Black History traveling exhibits from New York and the local Harn Museum exhibits.
On the third day, booths and exhibits open at noon, followed by a relaxing Sunday afternoon of jazz and reggae on stage from local and national bands.
The Festival is part of a permanent exhibit at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. and is listed in Florida Black Heritage Trails. The Festival has also been recognized by local and national elected officials.
Sponsors of the Festival have included: local government agencies Cox Media, Nationwide Insurance, Gainesville Sun, Mercedes-Benz, American Airlines, UF Health, Santa Fe College and the University of Florida; local organizations Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and many more. The Festival has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with individuals, businesses and organizations in the Greater Gainesville area.
Many people travel to Gainesville each year for the Festival; family reunions have been planned around the Festival.
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