We must have come to Orlando at the right time, because we’ve managed to catch a lot of art celebrations.
Last Saturday the 17th was the Creative City Project Orlando, a multi-stage festival that shut down Orange Street right in the heart of downtown. It’s a four block stretch, the restaurants are open, there are a few food carts, but no food trucks. (I have yet to see a food truck downtown.)
If you time it right, you can park anywhere for CCPO. We arrive about an hour before the first performance, and park in the lot across from my office in The Exchange Building. It’s $1 per hour, which isn’t great, but it’s only 4 blocks from where we need to be. Down here, that’s pretty close.
I’ve got my two youngest, Emma and Ben, with me, and we go to my office where I jump on the wifi and download the CCPO app, complete with map and schedule. I also check Twitter, but they don’t have a great social media presence going. I briefly consider volunteering next year.
The event is free, with a little something for everyone. It’s mostly about performing arts. There are several Central Florida performing arts groups, each putting on a 10 – 15 minute performance, before switching out. They run on two hour cycles, and each group showcases their talents, before making way for the next group. They will all perform twice this evening, with cycles starting at 8:00 and 10:00.
The headliners and marquis performers are the big draws, so they’re placed at either end of the street, so as not to weigh one end of Orange Ave. down with too many people.
One the north end of the street, Stages 1 and 2 feature the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Aerial Arts, and the Cook Trio, with a performance of gypsy swing with performances by the Orlando Ballet.
On the south end, Stage 9 brings us The Mud Flappers folk-rock-cabaret band, USA Dance ballroom dancing, and a Cirque du Soleil/Orlando Ballet dance number. It was a brilliant performance, and my only disappointment was that they only did one number.
In between are performances by the Maitland Stage Band (big band songs), the Orange County High School Marching Band, the Central Florida Community Arts Orchestra, and the Bach Festival Society Youth Choir. (Seriously, there’s a Bach Festival youth choir?! Man, these people love their Bach!) The Mozart Festival Society Youth Choir apparently still has to get their shit together.
There are DJs and dancers, a mini skate park with skaters doing their thing, and smaller stages with smaller crowds. Somewhere in there, an artist is creating a live version of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. I take some pictures and send out a couple smartass tweets. Because sending out smartass tweets is my jam, apparently.
Mayor Buddy Dyer is making the rounds — he’s up for re-election. I stop him in the street and Toni and I introduce ourselves. One of his aides snaps a picture of the three of us together, but Toni snaps a couple of me with the mayor first (see below). He seems like a nice guy, and was very approachable. Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard is a great supporter of the arts, which is unusual for a Republican mayor. And Orlando is a very artist-friendly city, so I have good feelings about Mayor Dyer.
The strategy at CCPO is to pick and choose which performances you want to see during the 8:00 cycle, and then race between stages. If you miss one, you skip it and catch it the next time around during the 10:00 cycle. I suppose you could also spend one half of the night on one end of the street, and the other half on the other end, but we only have a few must-see performances, and don’t feel like standing around for four hours.
The five of us go to our choice performances the first time, but Emma, Ben, Toni, and Toni’s mom (who’s visiting from Indy) are worn out by 9:00, so they leave. Maddie, my oldest daughter, and I still have some energy left. We decide to visit our favorites again, making sure to arrive at the stages early enough to get a better spot.
But first, we head to Gringos Locos on Washington Street for some tacos. I tweet that I’ve been there so many times in the last two weeks, I was named Employee Of The Month. Seriously, they need a frequent visitor card.
After fortifying ourselves with tacos — I have the Double Ds, which are hard shell tacos wrapped in soft shells — we head back to the Orlando Ballet stage, catch their performance, beat it up to the Orlando Aerial Arts performance. Then it’s all the way down to Stage 9 to catch Cirque du Soleil/Orlando Ballet one more time. The streets are crowded, and everyone is having a good time. After their number is done, we slowly walk back to the car. Our feet are aching, and my iPhone pedometer says I haven’t walked this far in weeks.
We make it home by 11:30, full of tacos and art, promising to do it again next year. All told, it’s been a very artful last five weeks, and we’ve seen and done a lot. I feel like we’re finally getting into the swing of things a little bit.