A fine day for the arts

55th annual Ocala Arts Festival draws thousands to the downtown area.


Bowie Wade, 4, gets a piggy-back ride from his grandfather, Bill Pharmer, as they walk past artwork during the FAFO Fine Arts Festival in downtown Ocala, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

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Posted October 26, 2022 | By Susan Smiley-Height
Photos by Bruce Ackerman

Fair winds and sunny skies offered the perfect weather for enjoying the 55th annual Ocala Arts Festival on Oct. 22 and 23. And, wow, did art lovers and onlookers turn out for the event, which is organized by Fine Arts For Ocala, or FAFO.

“It was truly a great weekend; we had such a massive crowd,” said Maggie Weakley, the administrative coordinator for FAFO. “We estimate that we had more than 25,000 people at the event. Our biggest turnout ever.”

A group of community members started FAFO in 1966 to bring art to Marion County and has been putting on the festival ever since. The group also, since 1988, sponsors the annual Symphony Under The Stars event each Mother’s Day. FAFO’s mission is to promote the fine arts and enhance art education within the community.

The festival had more than 150 artists participating, with booths spread out all around the downtown square and side streets. There was a special area at Citizens’ Circle to showcase student art. A variety of entertainers and groups performed on stages at City Hall and the gazebo. An intrepid stilt walker enchanted the crowds by strolling the streets, leaning down to chat and for selfies.

This was the second year that organizers created the FAFO Loop, in which the artists were set up in a continuous loop around the event zone.

“That way, our guests could start on one end of the show and walk around and get to see all the artists,” Weakley noted. “Our artists were very happy and told us our guests were purchasing from them and some artists commented that it has been their best show ever. We love to hear that!”

The event is a juried show and the artists vie for cash prizes. The winners were:

  • Best of Show, $5,000 – William Kidd
  • Awards of Excellence, $2,500 each – Dennis Angel and Whitney Clanton
  • Awards of Distinction, $1,000 each – Zhiyong Ye, Catherine Goolsby, Jordan Shapot, Navenka Gabrielson, Timothy Carter, Donna Harris and Ummarid Eitharong
  • Awards of Merit, $500 each – Amy Lennard Gmelin, Robin Holt, Dan Hay, Cheryl Ritter, Susanna Spann, Stephen Marks, Gustavo Castillo, Emre Tekeli, Lawrence Packard and Martha Banting
  • Best of Show for Emerging Artist, award ribbon – Hannah Keats

To learn more, go to fafo.org