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Hundreds of artists participating in Boulder City’s Art in the Park

Signs of autumn’s arrival abound in Southern Nevada, from the return of double-digit daytime temperatures to Boulder City’s annual arts festival.

Annual events don’t get much more annual than Art in the Park, which this weekend returns for its 49th year, bringing more than 300 artists — and, if tradition holds, from 80,000 to 100,000 visitors — to the quaint community about 17,000 residents call home.

A more accurate name for the yearly festival might be Art in the Parks, because the event has expanded to a trio of Boulder City parks — Wilbur Square, Bicentennial and Escalante — along with Colorado and Arizona streets in between.

The gathering has "grown, and grown exponentially" since "it began in a grassroots sort of way," when Boulder City Hospital’s ladies auxiliary came up with the idea of an art show fundraiser, recalls Scott Lien , the Boulder City Hospital Foundation’s executive director.

Now, Art in the Park ranks as one of the Southwest’s largest juried arts competitions.

And while the current economic downturn has prompted "a very, very slight decline" in the number of artists participating, Lien notes, "that has more to do with gas prices."

If anything, he suggests, tough times mean "we see more people coming out because it’s a free event" that appeals to all ages.

And there’s plenty to experience, from kids’ activities and live music performances to a raffle of donated pieces by participating artists and prizes from Boulder City merchants.

But it’s the arts and crafts themselves that prove the biggest draw.

"The fact that it’s juried is a big part of the show’s success," according to Lien, who notes that they do turn away a number of applicants who don’t meet Art in the Park standards.

"We try to bring in the best quality artists we can," he says.

During the show, visitors will find fine arts at Wilbur Square, while fine crafts (such as blown glass and quilts) will be featured at Bicentennial Park. Escalante Park — really two parks, North Escalante and South Escalante — plays host to traditional crafts, Lien reports.

All that browsing can make patrons hungry and thirsty, which accounts for more than 25 food-and-drink options. Barbecue options range from all-American to Asian; hot dogs, kabobs and everything in between also turn up on the festival menu. Drink choices range from sodas to margaritas to beer — served at a festival beer garden.

"It’s like a little vacation" for festival attendees, Lien says.

And if the influx of visitors briefly interrupts the quiet of the "quaint, charming little community," he says, the hospital foundation — and Boulder City merchants — benefit from thousands of "extra visitors" thronging their businesses.

"With 80,000 to 100,000 extra visitors on a weekend," he says, "that’s a lot of traffic."

Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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