Golden Grove: Coconut Grove Arts Festival Celebrates 50 Years

Categories: Art
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The Coconut Grove Arts Festival in 1971.
In 1963, the Coconut Grove Playhouse staged a bawdy musical production, and organizers were worried about attracting theatergoers to their event. An intrepid publicist came up with a solution that resulted in crowds pouncing on the play like a sardine at a cat show. It also sowed the seeds for the Coconut Grove Arts Festival, which is celebrating its 50th year next February during President's Day weekend.

See also:
- Photos from the 2012 Coconut Grove Arts Festival

The play was Irma la Douce, local PR whiz Charlie Cinnamon recalls. "I needed an idea to turn them on, so I came up with the idea of a Paris Left Bank street-art show, which was almost a natural for the Grove, since in those days it was the center of art and a South Florida version of bohemian life."

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Cinnamon put out the word, and the local arts community responded enthusiastically. "Gathering my closest friends, many of them artists, we did, indeed, close the streets. Then we built a weekend of activities around the street show, and the people came."

The response to the impromptu arts event overshadowed the play, and the artists banded together to make the Coconut Grove Arts Festival a yearly event. As it grew, musicians, live entertainment, and food vendors joined. Within a few short years, organizers had to rope off entire blocks of the quiet neighborhood to house the crowds.

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