Locals weigh in on ArtsCity mini-festival compared to previous years


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Organizers are wrapping up the annual Arts in the Heart event. This year’s festival was different from the previous years with more restrictions to follow city COVID protocols.

“It’s an interesting title, it’s still Arts in the heart, just a little bit smaller,” said Mike Sleeper, the operations manager for the festival.

This year’s Arts in the Heart festival is now Arts City, a mini-festival. The Augusta tradition took a hiatus last year because of COVID, but now it’s back and with more changes than just its name.

“We’ve got two stages instead of four stages, we have 10 countries cooking instead of the normal 20, but it’s still an amazing thing,” said Sleeper.

Organizers wanted to go with a smaller feel this year because of the pandemic. This time around they had the entire700, 800, and 900 Blocks of Broad Street blocked off so that vendors could spread out. They also limited the number of VIP tickets you could purchase this year. Masks were recommended, but not required.

“We’re giving you the option, you choose how you wish to respond, whether you wish to attend, whether you wish to mask up or not it’s your choice,” he said.

But for the people who came out just for the festivities, this year’s festival had the same feel as years previous.

“It looks like Art’s in the heart, it feels like arts in the heart. That’s what I come down here to get a beer, grab a gyro, that’s what it’s all about for me,” said Sean Morgan.

Sean Morgan is a local photographer. He says he’s been coming to the Arts in the Heart festival since he could remember and despite this year’s changes, it’s still the same Arts in the Heart.

“I saw some comments on Facebook saying it’s now woke up and I’m like this is great like I said I come down here to get something to eat and check out some cool art,” said Morgan.

And Sean wasn’t the only one coming out for the food.

“Girl, this Latin food is off the chain. It’s really good and it’s really nice to see everybody out and about with the whole Covid thing,” said Shalanda Rice.

Shalanda Rice and her family traveled from Aiken to attend the festival this year. She says this was her first time coming out.

“We probably done seen 30 or 40 50 vendors just walking from the entrance way to the food court. We haven’t even been on the other side yet. So, it’s plenty of things to do plenty of places to go and shop local. There’s some people internationally that are here so I’m like okay Augusta,” said Rice.

And while most people love the new Arts City mini-festival, organizers are still deciding how next year’s festival will look.

“We’re going to take a look at that and discuss what should happen. It’s going to be a little bit bigger, but in terms of going back to the way it was before, it still remains to be seen, it’s kind of nice the way it is,” said Sleeper.

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