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Children share their visual voices in the popular Arts for All part of the Waco Cultural Arts Festival.

Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte

The Waco Cultural Arts Festival opens its 13th annual celebration of the arts and creativity this weekend in Indian Spring Park and neighboring Waco Convention Center, continuing its long-running tradition of diversity with hands-on art activities for kids and grown-ups, live music and dance performances, poetry, workshops, artist market, film, science demonstrations, food and drink.

It’s Waco’s biggest arts celebration and largely free, with past crowds ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 for the weekend. Organizers of some of the six minifestivals under the WCAF umbrella — ArtsFest, MusicFest, {254} Dance-Fest, WordFest, FilmFest and ScienceFest — say those festivals are starting to show a drawing power of their own.

Normally held on the last weekend of September, this year’s festival shifted a weekend to avoid conflicting with the Baylor Bears home football game Saturday, WCAF founder and president Doreen Ravenscroft said. The next two cultural arts festivals already are scheduled for the first — and football-free — weekend in October, she said.

This year’s festival includes two schedule additions that WCAF organizers were more than happy to accommodate: the formal announcement, and subsequent celebration, of the creation of the Waco Downtown Cultural District, approved last month by the Texas Commission on the Arts; and a dedication of artist Robert Summers’ cast bronze Branding the Brazos sculptures that mark Waco’s Chisholm Trail history at Indian Spring Park.

The cultural district ceremony and ribbon-cutting will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday with TCA executive director Gary Gibbs and Waco city officials in attendance. The Branding the Brazos dedication will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The festival’s outdoor parts of Arts for All activities, artists market, live performances and food and drink concessions take place in Indian Spring Park with performances held in the Indian Spring Park amphitheater, while the minifestivals will operate in the Waco Convention Center. The hands-on art activities and demonstrations that draw hundreds of families each year run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday or until supplies run out. This year’s artists market will feature 19 artists working in jewelry, printing, ceramics, painting and photography.

Ravenscroft and Cultural Arts of Waco education coordinator Claire Sexton pointed out new touches to the weekend’s festivities, including a body-painting demonstration; a pianist performing throughout both days on a piano mounted on rollers; two Electronic Dance Music groups with accompanying light shows — Austin electronic/experimental bands Total Unicorn and GOBI (Gold on Black Ice) — on Saturday night; and Waco country singer Holly Tucker performing at festival’s close.

The {254} Dance-Fest opens informally at 9 a.m. Friday with Kids Dance, a time where Dance-Fest founder and organizer L. Brooke Schlecte and fellow dancers walk young kids through a primer to dance: how to watch and behave, what dancers do and the like. Last year, more than 300 children and elementary students attended, to Schlecte’s delight.

The festival itself will feature workshops in contemporary dance, dance improvisation, contemporary jazz dance and flamenco at an admission of $5 per person with three free, major dance concerts at 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

As in past years, more than a dozen companies and dancers from across Texas and neighboring states will perform, including Waco’s Out on a Limb Dance Company, which Schlecte founded and leads.

For dance fans, the {254} Dance-Fest will offer inexpensive workshops for specific styles and skills, plus performances of contemporary dance that usually doesn’t come to Waco at other times of year.

“I think people are starting to see this festival set apart,” she said. “Slowly but surely, we’re getting an audience following us . . . and studios now are looking forward to it.”

WordFest, which celebrates poetry, spoken word and creative writing, will feature poets and other writers from across the state. This year’s WordFest 92-page anthology has entries from a record-breaking 72 poets, some as far away as Australia and Argentina.

Many of the out-of-town contributors will attend to read their anthology selections Saturday night with Austin poet Festival Thom, founder of the Austin International Poetry Festival, this year’s featured writer. WordFest also will hold free workshops in writing for children, humor, editing, marketing and publishing, poetry and more.

The FilmFest — Celebration Africa, the WCAF’s cinema component, will screen four films Friday and Saturday. The Nigerian short film “Oya: Something Happened on the Way to West Africa” will follow the festival’s opening reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday. “Intore!,” a look at how the arts and forgiveness helped Rwanda recover its national identity after the 1994 genocide, will screen at 8 p.m.

On Saturday, the film festival will show the 1999 animated folktale “Kirikou and the Sorceress” at 2 p.m. “Sembene!,” the story of pioneering African filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, will close the festival at 6 p.m.