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City with a Flair

The Leesburg Center for the Arts began in the year 2000 as a redevelopment tool under the Leesburg Partnership to address the community’s need for a centralized creative component. The organization quickly established its mission: to promote growth and vitality in the community by providing educational opportunities in the arts for all ages, to provide cultural events for the community and to provide a central location that attracts talented artisans, musicians and appreciative audiences.

The center is located on the corner of Fifth and Magnolia streets in Historic Downtown Leesburg. The downtown location houses a gallery, an Art Institute and various other activities throughout the year. The Center also hosts the Leesburg Fine Arts Festival every year on the first weekend of March. As part of its mission, it supports the Leesburg area schools by providing a venue to exhibit student work, scholarships for school supplies and after-school arts programs.

The Leesburg Center for the Arts is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which is funded in part by the City of Leesburg, local grants and individual memberships.

For information: 429 West Magnolia Street
Leesburg, FL 34748
(352) 365-0232
www.LeesburgCenter4Arts.com

Each month, the Lake-Sumter Community College Performing Arts Series brings world-class entertainment to the Paul P. Williams Fine Arts Center, located on the campus.

“Lights of Lake,” the county’s annual lighting extravaganza, grows bigger and better each year, as the holiday light decorating efforts of cities, businesses and residents show a united holiday spirit during this special season. The cities of Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Leesburg, Clermont and Lady Lake rally together to attract sightseers from throughout Florida and beyond. More than four million lights flicker along corridors and waterways, making Lake County a virtual winter wonderland (without the snow, of course).

The beauty of Lake County is unprecedented all year long, but with the addition of the lights, holiday visitors choose it as a destination. It’s the first time the cities have come together under the same logo for such a large countywide event. Once again, we’re working together!

The Leesburg area has seen more and more visitors in recent years, in part thanks to events like the Leesburg Bikefest™ in April. More than 300,000 motorcycle enthusiasts turn out for the three-day annual event with headline performers like Leon Russell and Foghat. Each year, downtown streets are closed to provide parking for a dazzling display of custom motorcycles. The Ms. Bikefest Contest is also a festival favorite.

Motorcycle Monster founder Dan Derringer said, “The Leesburg event is no longer a regional event. With the crowds I saw this weekend and the huge expansion of vendor areas, it is apparent to me that Leesburg is now one of the leading national motorcycle events.” Derringer added, “It also has continued to grow over the past decade in size and popularity, while many of the large events have seemed to lose their energy. I believe nationally famous builders and larger vendors are missing what may be one of the top five motorcycle events in the nation.”

As the entertainment continues, riders can watch world-class bands on four stages, enjoy the world famous Rats Hole Show, take a peek at the famous Hawaiian Tropic Girls, get some riding tips from the Motorman or watch the famous Adam Holbrook doing his impossible trials stunts. The entertainment doesn’t stop for three days as promoters again give visitors a full program with no cost to the attendees.

When asked about the comparison to Daytona, Derringer said, “I’ve never seen as many bikes in Daytona on Main Street as I saw in downtown Leesburg on Saturday. The only place I have ever seen that many bikes in one location was in downtown Sturgis. In fact, Leesburg reminds me of Sturgis, a laid back community with more appreciation of the motorcycling visitor.”

Derringer also said, “I believe Joe Shipes and his staff at the Leesburg Partnerships are some of the best motorcycle event promoters I have ever known. They have kept the ‘small event feel,’ while the overall size of the event has become huge. I congratulate them for a great job!”

With the tremendous growth of Leesburg Bikefest™ over the past few years, it is apparent that it is more than an up-and-coming event. At Leesburg Bikefest™ 2007 edition, Joe Shipes and the Leesburg Partnership won the competition for Motorcycle Monster “Event of the Year.”

In February, the Leesburg Partnership hosts Leesburg Mardi Gras “Party in the Street.” The Mardi Gras celebration is complete with parades, “krewes” and a Mardi Gras Ball to crown Leesburg’s King Rex and Queen Divine. Vendors and community fundraising groups serve authentic fare, and the Mardi Gras Store at the Partnership offices on Magnolia sells beads, masks and Mardi Gras attire to benefit the event.

March marks the arrival of the Leesburg Fine Arts Festival, presented by the Leesburg Center for the Arts. Artists sell their works along Main Street.

During the first week of April, the Partnership holds the Spring Fish Fry. Under the shade of oak trees, on the grounds of the historic Mote-Morris House, candidates campaign and Fish Fry guests mingle and make business connections. Or, they just relax and enjoy a generous all-you-can-eat buffet of traditional Southern food (fried fish, steamed oysters, corn on the cob, collard greens, navy beans, hush puppies and corn bread).

Summer is time for a Fourth of July celebration, and in the fall, festival season returns with events like the annual Chili Cook-Off in early November, the Trick or Treat on Main Street Halloween Carnival and the Fall Craft Festival in November.

The holidays are a special time for downtown Leesburg, with events like the “Lights of Lake” celebration, the Venetian Gardens Light Up on the banks of Lake Harris, the Leesburg Main Street Christmas Stroll and Christmas Parade. The Main Street Christmas House offers handcrafted holiday decorations and gifts during the months of November and December at Towne Square. d

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