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Tutu and Don Harrell, dressed in authentic Nigerian attire, will perform African music and folklore in this year's ArtsFest Florida, starting Thursday, Feb. 4.

Tutu and Don Harrell, dressed in authentic Nigerian attire, will perform African music and folklore in this year's ArtsFest Florida, starting Thursday, Feb. 4.

Karen McEnany-Phillips

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Forget pink elephants. At the stroke of midnight Wall Street bar patrons plan to cheer a kilt-clad band playing bagpipes and drums. The popular Rosie O'Grady Highlanders will be one of many returning features when ArtsFest takes Central Florida by storm.

Well-heeled and budget-conscious art lovers will mingle seamlessly when ArtsFest arrives in early February, beginning with the pre-kick off party at Maitland's Enzian Theater on Thursday Feb. 4.

The 10-day event showcases 205 free events in 75 venues across Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake County. Attendance could top 75,000, said Emma Kruch, United Arts of Central Florida marketing and public relations coordinator.

Eighty arts organizations will share information at the Enzian's Pre-Kickoff, which starts at 5:30 p.m., while radio personalities Obie & Lil Shawn from Power 95.3 will provide music and entertainment. Showing that night are "PeeWee's Big Adventure" at 6:30 p.m. and "Clue" at 9:30 p.m.

The movies as well as the venue are celebrating their 25th anniversaries. Jordana Meade, Enzian spokeswoman, welcomes the public to dress up for the Clue costume contest and bring a picnic basket or enjoy the comfort of the Eden Bar.

"The Enzian is a unique gem in the community," Meade said. "It is the best way to experience a film."

After the kickoff, dance, film, theatre, music and visual arts will come alive at stage, exhibit, workshop, museum, amphitheatre and festival venues.

Bank of America is the presenting sponsor with dozens more organizations supporting the event.

"They are the reason it can be free," Kruch said. "Businesses are struggling but they understand that arts should not be cut."

Those familiar with ArtsFest will welcome back unique performances such as MicheLee Puppets, Russian Ballet of Orlando and thespians from dozens of theaters including Mad Cow Theatre. More than a dozen new artists have also joined the lineup, including Central Florida Lyric Opera starring Broadway performer Grant Norman and the nationally recognized OrisiRisi African Folklore arts company, featuring cultural performers, Don and Tutu Harrell.

Tutu's expressive eyes and wide smile captivates audiences and engages them to leave their comfort zone and learn about other cultures. Don's hands slap against the goat-hide covered drums delivering a loud, insistent rhythm.

"We share the beauty and poignancy of African life in storytelling, music and dance. The drum sermons are universal; they bring people together," Don said.

The Harrells have performed nationally for organizations and students of all ages and work with school administrators to integrate arts into school curriculums. Using authentic African musical instruments made with dense wood, gourds and beads, Tutu and Don perform in colorful authentic Nigerian celebratory attire. "We get everyone up on their feet!" Tutu said.

Tickets may be reserved online via a valid e-mail address and are available Tuesday Feb. 2 at 10 a.m. at Artsfestfl.com. Venues with limited seating and capacity are noted with a "Tickets Are Limited" icon.

The Orlando Magic is supporting ArtsFest with "10 Days of ArtsFest Magic". A University of Central Florida film student, clad in a Magic jersey, will document daily events using a video camera donated by the Orlando Magic and post videos and photos to the news tab blog of the ArtsFest Web site.

UA hopes as patrons sample events they will be motivated to buy a ticket, membership or season pass at a later time funneling United Arts' investment back to the arts community.


ArtsFest

Thursday, Feb. 4, through Sunday, Feb. 14

Artsfestfl.com

407-356-5816

Visit Bank of America banking centers for a printed schedule of events

UnitedArts.cc

Enzian.org 407-629-1088

Orisirisi.com 407-697-1336