Our cultural cup runneth over


I had the terrible misfortune of being sidelined by a broken leg during the most flat-out crazy-busy time of the cultural year — Seven Days of Opening Nights, February’s marathon of arts and entertainment.

I missed out on way more than one week of art, film, dance, music and performance art — from the get-go, when the festival was launched in 1999, Seven Days hijacked the calendar for most of the month.

I wasn’t back on my feet in time to make the rounds of this year’s Tallahassee Film Festival, which boasted packed screenings, glam-slammed after-parties and a cinematic lineup that earned rave reviews.

While healing, I have consoled myself with the thought that the Tallahassee cultural calendar doesn’t really have any blank spaces. There’s plenty to savor year-round.

Every month, there’s the popular First Friday Gallery Hop, sponsored by the Council on Culture & Arts. It draws throngs to area galleries and museums. It’s always a mob scene at funky, fun Railroad Square Art Park, where you can find out-there performance art, indie music, fine art and much more.

You can find a guide to all the arty parties in the Democrat’s weekly Limelight, as well as at COCA’s website at

If theater is your entertainment tipple, you can slake your thirst with productions by community theater groups, the acclaimed theater programs at FSU, FAMU and TCC, professional-quality Young Actors Theatre shows and the Civic Center’s professional Broadway Series. When theater season is in full swing, it’s possible to see two or three top-notch performances a week.

Dancers will find plenty to keep their feet moving, with ballet, salsa, tango (Tallahassee has its own Argentine Tango Society), old-time contra dance, Cajun, zydeco, swing and ballroom groups, as well as performances by FSU and FAMU’s renowned ballet, modern and Afro-Caribbean dance troupes. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of the famous dance ensemble Urban Bush Women, is on the dance faculty at FSU.

The music scene is rich and diverse, from the ever-changing indie scene to world music ensembles that keep far-flung musical traditions fresh to top-drawer jazz at B Sharp’s Jazz Cafe and the up-and-coming Hi Fi Jazz Cafe.

The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra infuses classical music with contemporary zest, and groups such as the Tallahassee Community Chorus and Tallahassee Civic Chorale explore the choral canon.

The heralded Tallahassee Boys’ Choir has been joined by the Tallahassee Girls’ Choir of CHOICE, and area high schools boast award-winning singing groups.

And music-lovers will find that following their bliss is mighty light on the pocketbook — both FSU and FAMU offer recital seasons crammed with free performances.

Be sure to explore the culinary landscape, as well. Tallahassee has a vibrant, vital dining scene, with an increasing emphasis on locally grown, ingredients and fresh takes on classic cuisines at such establishments as Sage and Cypress.

The world is your dining oyster, whether you’re looking for creatively presented sushi, fresh Gulf seafood, spicy Thai and Vietnamese, classic Greek and Mediterranean, or other world cuisines.

There’s more, so much more, out there, and as soon as I am back on both feet, I’m jumping back into the thick of it. Peruse these listings and use them as your guide, and I’ll see you out there.

Kati Schardl is the assistant features editor for the Tallahassee Democrat and a long-time chronicler of, and participant in, the local cultural scene.

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Festivals & big events

Looking for a celebration? Here’s a sampling of this area’s many events.

North Florida Wine & Food Festival: FSU’s Dedman School of Hospitality hosts its second annual celebration of the fruit of the vine Sept. 8 through 12.

11th Annual Fur Ball Gala: The community dresses up to support the Leon County Humane Society on Oct. 23., 224-9193.

Seven Days of Opening Nights: Arts and culture sparkle in February as this arts festival packs the calendar with performances, exhibits, films and more. www.sevendays

Red Hills Horse Trials: Each March, some of the world’s finest equestrians and their talented horses come to Elinor Klapp Phipps Park for the three-day competition.

Springtime Tallahassee: When the dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom, more than 200,000 people flock downtown for Springtime Tallahassee. Festivities include a parade, a Jubilee in the Park with arts, crafts and food vendors, live music and more. The next one is April 2.

Stephen C. Smith Regatta: Spend a weekend at Shell Point in April watching boats and windsurfers compete.

Tallahassee Film Festival: The 2010 festival was a smash hit with cine-philes and filled up the May calendar with screenings, parties and workshops. Look for the spring 2011 event to build on 2010’s success.

Panacea Blue Crab Festival: The delectable “beautiful swimmer” and the seafood industry in general are showcased in May in Panacea. After a parade down U.S. 98, folks flock to Woolley Park to enjoy music, seafood and fireworks.

Tallahassee PrideFest: The city’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community celebrates each spring with PrideFest, a cornucopia of art openings, performances, theater and a day of fun at Kleman Plaza.

African Dance Festival: Drummers and dancers from all around the globe are drawn to this three-day festival each June.

Tallahassee Celebrates America: Thousands of souls fill Tom Brown Park each Fourth of July to for a free concert and fireworks. The 2010 fest was a three-day affair that included a Downtown GetDown, a Blues & Barbecue hoedown at Kleman Plaza and the blowout at Tom Brown.

Experience Asia 2009: Each fall, the Asian Coalition of Tallahassee showcases the cultural diversity of the Asian community in the downtown Chain of Parks.

Tallahassee Greek Food Festival: Offer an “Opa!” toast on the grounds of Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church in October.

Florida A&M University Homecoming: The Rattler Nation converges on Tallahassee for festivities in October. Events include step-dancing, receptions, luncheons, a parade and the game Oct. 30 against Morgan State.

North Florida Fair: From Nov. 4 through 14, folks flock to the fairground to ride the rides, catch musical acts, peruse exhibits and gobble down corn dogs and other fair fare.

Florida Seafood Festival: Apalachicola is jammed with seafood lovers hungry for the bounty of the Gulf and great entertainment Nov. 5 and 6.

Florida State Homecoming: The big game and the parade are always a hit, but the celebration is also big on laughs. The Powwow in the Civic Center always features a big-name comic. For 2010, the game is Nov. 6 against North Carolina.

15th Annual Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival: Some of the finest sporting and wildlife artists in the Southeast display their works at the Thomasville Cultural Center in Thomasville, Ga. on Nov. 20 and 21.

Winter Festival: The city throws its holiday party in December, with a nighttime parade, the Jingle Bell Run, a street festival and 10 gazillion white lights downtown.

Market Days: This benefit for the Tallahassee Museum is always much anticipated. On Dec. 4 and 5, creations from more than 300 artists and artisans fill buildings and plazas at the North Florida Fairground.