When the Wilton Manors Arts & Entertainment Expo returns this Saturday, Jan. 21 from 6 to 9 p.m., it will be under new owners and a shortened season.
The Wilton Manors Entertainment Group, which has also partnered with the city to run Stonewall, purchased the Expo, originally known as the Island City Art Walk, in October from previous owner Thomas Alford. The city’s Community Affairs Advisory Board helped sponsor the event with a $1,000 donation.
The Wilton Manors Entertainment Group is now the fourth owners of the event. It’s an evening where Wilton Drive business owners host artists and their work inside the owner’s storefront. In addition to Wilton Drive, the north portion of Dixie highway, from Five Points south to Northeast 24 Street, is also included.
“There have been numerous changeovers. We’re hoping over the next two years to give it a little more stability. We want to try and fix it the same way we did with Stonewall,” said Jeff Sterling, CEO of Wilton Manors Entertainment Group. “We took it over as a project with the city.”
The event usually starts in November but Sterling said it was delayed to January because “We got it so late in the game we didn’t want to screw it up [by rushing it].” This year, it will be held every third Saturday of the month from January to March.
So far, 33 business owners and artists have signed-up, including the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, Tropics, Novel Tea, Infinity Lounge, The Zig Zag Building, The Vape Shop, Bubbles and Pearls, Pink Submarine, Bona Pizza, Retro Video, Sterling Tax & Accounting and Buddha Happy. Business owners can host an artist for free but artists who want to participate must supply a $50 refundable deposit. Sterling said the fee is only a way to encourage artists who sign-up to show up for the event. The money is refunded after the artist attends. Musical entertainment will be provided at the Zig Zag Building.
Sterling said the goal is to get the business owners to treat the Expo like an open house and an opportunity to attract more people into their business. The founder and original owner, Mary Ellen Charapko, started the event as a way to make Wilton Manors more of a destination for art.
“It’s a great thing. It brings people in from outside of Wilton Manors,” said Karl Lentzer, president of the Wilton Manors Business Association. Lentzer also likes the Expo because it’s something that isn’t bar-related. “It’s kind of like that [Wilton Manors’ Holiday Craft Festival held in December] that brought in people. Anything different, that doesn’t revolve around bars, is a great asset to all the businesses.”
Tony LoGrande also brought up the craft festival to city commissioners at their last meeting. He praised the event, held at Richardson Park, because it brought in lots of visitors who then frequented many of the businesses on Wilton Drive.