It's always been one of the biggest and best events of the year at Lakewood Ranch, but organizers say this year's Grand Ovation is shaping up to be the biggest ever.
More than 20 performing arts groups, from high school groups to folk music societies all the way up to world-famous opera and ballet companies, will be on hand for the free event.
It's set for Saturday along Main Street on Lakewood Ranch.
For the seventh annual edition of Grand Ovation (which used to be called simply "Ovation"), organizers plan four full hours of arts and entertainment. This year there will be three stages, so audiences will have their choice of three acts at any time.
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"When we started out we just had one stage," said co-manager Linda Gross. "After a few years we went to two stages. Now we have one stage on each end of Main Street, and another stage in the middle."
Each stage will be alive with music, theater and dance. Every half hour between noon and 3:30 p.m. a new act will take to each stage.
It's a sampler of all the performing arts the Bradenton-Sarasota area has to offer.
"We get thousands of people," Gross said. "It's a fun day and a great way to experience all the different performing arts groups from the community."
A lot of the performing arts companies, including Manatee Players, the Players Theatre, the Sarasota Ballet and the Sarasota Opera, will be offering bits from performances that they are currently staging or rehearsing, Gross said. So people who visit the event can get a free taste of show that they may be interested in seeing.
Besides just seeing specific shows, Gross said, some people may get their first of live opera or ballet.
Arts and entertainment are the main attractions, but Grand Ovation is also deigned to bring attention to area non-profit organizations.
Tents along Main Street will house booths and tables from various nonprofits who will offer information about their services and programs.
One new one this year is Selah Freedom, a Sarasota organization that rescues victims of human trafficking.
All restaurants and other businesses along main Street will be open, so Ovation-goers will have a variety of food and beverages choose from.
Here's a schedule of the entertainment events:
Fountain Stage (next to MacAllisters):
Noon: Sarasota Opera
12:30 p.m.: Lakewood Ranch High School Theatre Department
1 p.m.: Lakewood Ranch High School Silver Stars Dance Team
1:30 p.m.: Premier Dance Studio/Lakewood Ranch Ballroom Dance Club
2 p.m.: Sarasota Dance Academy
2:30 p.m.: To be announced
3 p.m.: Good Time Groove Band
3:30 p.m.: Sarasota Dance Academy
Boardwalk Stage (next to Chico's):
Noon: Sarasota Ballet
12:30 p.m.: Sarasota Cuban Ballet
1:30 p.m.: School of Russian Ballet
2 p.m.: Circus Arts Conservatory
2:30 p.m.: Sarasota Chorus of the Keys
3 p.m.: The Players Theatre
3:30 p.m.: To be announced
Breezeway Stage (next to JPan):
Noon: Manatee Players
12:30 p.m.: Musica Sacra Cantorum
1 p.m.: Let's Rock Sarasota
1:30 p.m.: Sarasota Folk Club
2: Nick Drivas
2:30 p.m.: Turning Points -- The Open Door Band
3 p.m.: The Diamonds and Pearls Dance Team
3:30 p.m.: Sarasota Folk Club
Details: Noon-4 p.m. Feb. 1, Main Street, Lakewood Ranch. Tickets: Free. Information: 941-720-0462, www.lakewoodranch.com/grandovation.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.