A lively crowd attended the inaugural Ringling International Arts Festival’s opening night gala on Wednesday, set in the Ringling Museum courtyard.
Live string music filled the air as party-goers of all ages — dressed in their Florida best — feasted on hors d’oeuvres and took pictures besides the beautiful ice sculptures.
Those who couldn’t bear the humid weather were able to escape inside the museum to take in the galleries. Featured exhibits at the festival include “Venice in the Age of Canaletto” and “Louise Fishman Among the Old Masters.”
The opening night festivities also attracted Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole. Crist spoke about the importance of supporting the arts in Florida.
“It’s a great night for the arts,” he told the crowd.
Before Crist spoke, one festival-goer had his camera in hand, waiting patiently for Crist to make the public appearance. It was the first time he would get to see the governor in person, he said.
Ringling staffers said that Mikhail Baryshnikov was there too, along with several other festival artists.
The most enchanting part of the gala was the 15-minute fireworks display that followed Crist’s speech.
The colorful spectacle was best viewed from the courtyard’s bridge where festival-goers such as Chris Voelker and Robert O’Connell, both of Sarasota, looked on with excitement.
They told the Herald that they hoped the new arts festival will continue for years to come.
As gala attendees walked over to the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts to enjoy classical music, the wear and tear of standing in high heels during the evening was too much for one festival-goer to bear. So she walked over shoeless, carrying her heels in her hands.
January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.