AVON LAKE/LORAIN COUNTY
Similar to the story of the Phoenix, Rick Fortney believes that fire has a way of causing a rebirth.
Fortney, founder and executive director of TrueNorth Cultural Arts, a multi-disciplinary arts center on South Pin Oak Parkway in Avon Lake, will be among 40 artists participating in the Fifth Annual FireFish Festival Friday and Saturday in downtown Lorain.
The event attracts about 10,000 people and showcases visual and performing arts. It will be held from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
The "Burning of the Fish," a 30-by-15-foot papier mache fish that will be burned, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Black River Landing. The controlled inferno celebrates the burning flame from the lakefront city's steel mill and the city’s industrial heritage and calls attention to the community’s desire to revitalize downtown by hosting a gathering of regional artists there.
The artists will share their crafts and talents in various spaces along Broadway Avenue between West Erie Avenue and Sixth Street while nonstop live music is performed on stages along Broadway. The festival will feature 48 bands performing numerous music genres, including folk, rock 'n' roll, classical, bluegrass, reggae and big band swing.
Admission is free, but food and beverages will be available for purchase from about 10 food trucks, featuring ethnic dishes.
"This is a family-oriented event," said Emily Hoag, director of the FireFish Festival. "Our goal is to have people discover Lorain, its unique architecture and its assets. There's unused spaces that artists can take advantage of. We want people to come to be drawn to Lorain for its assets, most notably Lake Erie, the Black River, its many ethnic groups and its downtown architecture."
FireFish works to enhance cultural, civic and economic development in Lorain and Lorain County through visionary arts events, pioneering arts programming, community arts education and critical arts leadership.
"I think the city of Lorain has a deep and rich history," Fortney said. "It's taken a lot of hits with the loss of jobs and some of its main industries through the years, but city leaders are trying to reinvent the town, make people aware of its assets and revitalize downtown."
"Art has a way of helping make that happen," added Fortney, whose TrueNorth Cultural Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary. "We're hoping to bring out the "inner art" in everyone."
TrueNorth will teach swing dance classes Saturday.
This year’s Burning of the Fish theme is inspired by a special kind of seed found in nature called “pyrophytic.” Sequoia seeds are an example. The heat of fire is necessary for these seeds to germinate and grow. Fire, normally considered a destroying force, is actually a necessary ingredient in life for pyrophytic trees and plants. FireFish and the fiery finale is a force for rebirth.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, TrueNorth will host the first of four art classes where people can make percussion instruments such as drums and shakers, plus windsocks, mask painting and painting fish scales.
In 2 Ative, a fusion-type duo that mostly plays classical music, will open the festival at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Grady Miller Americana.
The FireFish Festival will conclude with performances by La Gran Combination led by Sammy Deleon, Rachel Brown and the Beatnik Playboys and Get Hep Swing.
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