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Artfest celebrates 15th anniversary

Author: Amanda Hall

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Artfest, one of the oldest and most successful art festivals in Southwest Florida, turns 15 this year.

A familiar scene, during the first full weekend in February, is a long line of white tents, filled with art, and crowds stretching along the banks of the downtown Fort Myers riverfront.

This year, Artfest, featuring 200 artists from 39 states, celebrates its 15th anniversary. Festival organizers continue to look ahead, by adding different artists and new ways to attract art lovers with interactive activities for kids and adults.

“This year we launch Publix Run to the Arts, as a way of integrating health and fitness and culture in our community, and doing those things together,” said director Sharon McAllister.

What started out as a one-day art festival with 12,000 people, is now a full weekend of activities, hosting over 85,000.  A variety of reasons has attributed to the festival’s success, including loyal sponsors and a full time staff.

Marketing dollars, funded by the Tourist Development Council, go towards advertising Artfest packages, including hotel rooms and passes to VIP parties, in art publications and out of town newspapers.

“Arts and culture are known to be one of the significant reasons that visitors travel. They are going to include that piece in a genres of different experiences when they’re vacationing,” said Nancy Macphee with the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau

Many artists and visitors, who attend Artfest as an annual tradition, are escaping from the cold, stormy winter weather back home.

Artfest is this upcoming weekend February 6-8, 2015.