Event: Sarasota Chalk Festival

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The Sarasota Chalk Festival is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, except for being held in Venice.  Every year artists gather from all over to create incredible, temporary works on a side runway of the little Venice airport over the course of a single weekend, alongside local food vendors and musicians.  This year’s theme was Love & Peace, so there were many hearts and peace signs, peace hand gestures, several appearances by the Beatles, lots of lion & lamb symbolism.  Some of the work was based on classical art, some was original, but it was all amazing.  They start on Friday so I went on Sunday figuring they’d have a lot done by then and they did, but most were still working which is really the point.  The festival is more about the performance than the end product.

Also during the festival have 3D pavement paintings; these are done in a distorted style that gives them a three-dimensional aspect when viewed from just the right spot.  Bring a fisheye lens if you have one, if not, they usually had tripods set up with little fisheye viewer things that you could look or photograph through to get the effect.  The artists will even let people walk out onto the pieces to have their pictures taken within the art.

The same one again, from the designated spotwith the fisheye lens.
The same one again, from the designated spot with the fisheye lens. The viewing tripod is visible at the bottom of the frame, next to my unfortunate shadow. :/

Entry cost $10 for adults, $5 for students and was free for kids under 13.  They also sell multi-day passes but I don’t remember how much those were.  Besides the professionals there was an area where anyone could draw and the little kids were having a lot of fun with that.  The only complaint I had was that it was crowded, go early or even on Monday if you can swing it and don’t mind not seeing the artists actually working since I think they’re basically done by then.

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Museums of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is one of a handful of pretty little cities out on the peninsula between Tampa Bay & the Gulf of Mexico.  With beautiful beaches & palm-lined streets it’s been a tourist destination since the beginning of tourism.

The Museum of History is on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier, which juts out into Tampa Bay & is currently closed for construction.  It’s a small but interesting museum, $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $9 for children, military, & students (this was the first place I got a discount with my student ID!).  Their permanent exhibits include an Egyptian mummy, general area history, aviation, a few signs about pirates, and for some reason two rooms filled with nothing but autographed baseballs.  When I went in April they had a shipwreck exhibit on that showed models & artifacts as well as the technology involved in finding the wrecks & retrieving small bits from them.

Just around the corner is the Museum of Fine Arts ($17/adults, $15/seniors/military, $10/children/students), which holds many works from some of history’s greatest artists in its permanent collection.  After viewing ancient pieces from all over the world, I found myself in the presence of three genuine Monets.  Unlike most art museums, they welcome photography in their permanent collections.

Event: Live Oak International

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Every year in January horse drivers & jumpers come to Ocala from all over the world to compete at Live Oak Farms.  It’s become quite a festival, they have food trucks, vendors, even the Budweiser Clydesdale were there, all hooked up doing laps around the show ring.  It was a lot of fun except for the woman sitting next to me during the jumping saying “You can do it horsie! Oh that’s OK you’ll do better on the next one!”  It was the horse show equivalent of those people who talk to the characters during movies.

A Love Letter to the Florida State Fair

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I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my absurd love of fairs.  Maybe it’s my Midwest upbringing, but I LOVE FAIRS.  All kinds: local, county, state, whatever.  I love everything about them.  I love baby animals and prize-winning chickens and little kids showing pygmy goats.  I love gussied-up llamas and livestock judges waxing poetic about cows and fancy horses with braided manes.  I love midways and overpriced rides and smells of awful fried food and obnoxious barkers trying to get people to play their ridiculous games.  I love expo halls full of craft booths and tables covered with handouts about bugs.  I love handmade quilts with ribbons pinned on them and dioramas with model trains running around the edge and forestry exhibitions of endangered animals.  I love ugly but lovable elementary-school art projects and musicians demonstrating mountain dulcimers.  I love samples of local honey and displays of exotic fish and barns full of rabbits.

I just really, really, really love fairs, and the Florida State Fair is one of the best I’ve been to.  I saw the Budweiser Clydesdales, fed a butterfly, and watched a woman weave cloth with a wooded loom.  I tasted ice cream some guy made as part of a demonstration to get people to buy some contraption or other.  I found out that Florida has a special kind of horse called a Cracker that does a funny little trot and saw a kid get hauled over to a hay bale by a goat he was trying to show.  I watched people feed carrot sticks to giraffes.  I spent seven hours looking at wooden clocks and bonsai trees and recycled yard art.  It was great.

This Month in Awkwardness

I signed up for my classes and got my books, then one of the professors emailed saying we needed a different edition of the book than what was on the university’s book list, then they cancelled one of my classes and didn’t tell me, then I decided to do a history minor and switched out the class with the wrong book for a different class altogether, then it turned out that one didn’t fulfill the requirement I thought it did so I changed everything up again, then I returned two of my books and ordered three different ones.  So basically I’ve done everything twice.  But for the moment I think I have everything under control.  Amazon is my friend, their textbook rentals are almost always cheaper than USF’s, sometimes drastically so.

I attended a Florida Public Archaeology Network’s volunteer archaeology lab at Weedon Island Preserve.  We were doing a rough sort of shells and other material gathered from one of their midden, or ancient trash pile, excavations, which basically amounts to sorting out someone’s 1,000-year-old dirty garbage.  It was interesting though, I guess they count or weigh all the different kinds of shells and from that they can tell what the group’s nutrition was like.  Based on the ear bones of fish they can actually tell things about the environment when the fish was alive, like the water temperature.  After the lab I went through their museum and out on one of the many trails in the preserve, although it wasn’t the one I had intended to hike.  The prize of their museum is a dugout canoe that sat in the mud for 1,000 years, and they had a really good exhibit around it.

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Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Weedon Island Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida – a beautiful nature park with strong archaeology programs.


Added to the Travel Map:

Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury, England – possibly the oldest Christian church in Britain.

Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark – they’ll even teach you to sail one!

Barboursville Ruins, Barboursville, Virginia – burned-down mansion designed by Thomas Jefferson.