2013 Chalk Festival opens with Legacy of Valor theme

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SARASOTA, Fla. - All day Thursday, artists have been brightening up some of the sidewalks in downtown Sarasota for this year's Sarasota Chalk Festival, even hoisting up a Statue of Liberty replica that Thailand native artist Kumpa, spent fourth months sculpting.

The 7th Annual Sarasota Chalk Festival is celebrating and honoring veterans this year. Taking place in the Burns Square district on South Pineapple Avenue, artists from around the world will cover nearly four blocks with their chalk creations.

“The festival that started out just as a very local event, has now become really the most important event worldwide for this type of art form.” Denise Kowal began the chalk festival in 2007. It benefits her charitable arts organization Avenida de Colores, which translates to “Avenue of Colors.”

Every year the event has a theme, and this year they came alongside the Legacy of Valor campaign to honor and celebrate our veterans. “Every artist, even the artists that are traveling from other countries, that this is the first time they've stepped foot in America, are honoring this theme. Everybody has their different vision of what that means to them, so there will be a very diverse group of art here,” says Kowal.

Julio Jimenez came all the way from Southern California to be a part of creating a 3-D piece on the Navajo code talkers -- Native American soldiers who served in the Pacific theater during Worl War II. He says he's been an artist for the chalk festival for four years now. “It's educational, it's fun to do, and I feel very inspired to draw this, to be part of this.”

Business owners on South Pineapple Avenue feel the positive impact every year during the chalk festival. Salon owner Carriana Hutchinson could not be happier to be a part of the event. “It's been a positive experience every year for us. It brings in a lot of people. A lot of people that wouldn't normally see the neighborhood, get to enjoy the vendors on the street.”

Visitors from all over the country are making their way to the Suncoast this year to see the one of a kind event and honor our veterans. “I think it's fantastic what these artists are doing here, and I have a lot of respect for them, for all of their work and their travels,” says Margaret Berkowitz, visiting from Philadelphia.

The chalk festival will continue through the weekend, starting each morning and ending around 10pm each night.

Saturday afternoon at 4:30pm they will have a special ceremony on North Pineapple Avenue to honor the veterans with a dinner and U.S.O. dance to follow.

For more information on Legacy of Valor, visit www.mysuncoast.com/veterans.