A festival for the family

It's time for Festival in the Park. If you're relatively new to the area, maybe you've never gone to the annual festival – one of Charlotte's longest running and most popular. Perhaps all you've heard about it is that parking can be a pain.

But got a family? If so, you need to go, said Dave Dalton, chairman of the festival's board of directors. “It is definitely a family festival,” he said.

What it is

It's a four-day arts fest that starts Thursday evening and runs through Sunday on the grounds of Freedom Park, between Myers Park and Dilworth. It's been a Charlotte tradition since 1964. It showcases artwork of about 150 artists and crafts people. About 50 artists are included on an artists' walk along the park's lake and are entered into a juried pool. Plus, there are tents devoted to the artwork of students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

There's also live entertainment – singers, bands, orchestras and such. And there's a stroller walk and 5K run.

Admission is free. But you'll need cash for food, rides and, of course, art you want to take home.

Details: www.festivalinthepark.org.

What's new

There's a new stage to showcase young singers and musicians.

Performing at 8 p.m. Saturday, for example, is 13-year-old blues guitarist Jake Haldenwang of Tega Cay, S.C. He's been playing for two years, after having asked for a guitar following his family's move from southern California. After one year, he began performing live. This past summer, Jake performed with established bands at venues such as the Visulite Theatre and Double Door Inn. He will represent the Charlotte Blues Society as the youth entrant for the International Blues Challenge held in February in Memphis.

Warning: The festival will close at 9 p.m. instead of 10 for the first three nights. The festival shuts down at 6 p.m. Sunday.

What to do about parking

Street parking goes fast. (With good weather, police estimate a crowd of 100,000 people over the four days and nights, Dalton said.)

Dalton offered two possible solutions, one new this year. For the first time, light rail – still in its debut year and more popular than expected – might be a help. The festival will operate a shuttle from the East/West Boulevard stop.

And for a second year, shuttle vans will run from Myers Park Traditional and Holy Trinity Catholic Middle schools. The schools will charge $5 per car for parking.

Got a question or comment about Living Here? Let me hear it. abaldwin@charlotteobserver.com, 704-358-5179.

New around town?

Amy Baldwin's blog and extensive resources from Living Here magazine at www.charlotteobserver.com/living