Since its inception in 2005, Biddeford’s Chalk on the Walk art event has grown to cover a lot of ground – literally.

Each year, Main Street sidewalks from Route 1 to the Saco River have been transformed from drab, gray concrete slabs to vibrantly colored works of art. Each successive event features more participants, with artists vying to win one of three top prizes in the street chalk competition.

In its premiere year, nearly 40 pieces were created in front of sponsoring businesses. Last year’s competition grew to include nearly 100 chalk drawings.

According to Heart of Biddeford Executive Director Ezekiel Callanan, this year’s festival, set for Saturday, is shaping up to be even bigger and better.

“Last year’s event made the leap to becoming a large community event, with nearly 2,500 people attending,” said Callanan. “We think that, in time, it could be one of the biggest annual events offered in York County. New programs are being added daily, some of them pretty cool and that bring something new to the event. We have 25 or more vendors and a number of really skilled artists who are coming to grace our streets with their amazing work.”

Event founder and former Heart of Biddeford director Rachel Weyand said steps were taken, in recent years, to ensure better crowd flow. Two core gathering sites – one at City Square and the other at Mechanics Park – serve to bookend art being created along Main Street, encouraging attendees to take a stroll, view the art and get acquainted with the goods and services offered by downtown merchants. Live entertainment is offered at both sites, with vendors and family activities peppered along the art route to further engage the crowd.

“We branched out to offer things all over the city, including in Washington, Jefferson and Adams street areas,” said Weyand. “Chalk art happens on every street. We want to get people to explore the city.”

For a sponsorship fee of $100, participating businesses are paired with an artist, given a 6-foot-by-6-foot square of sidewalk, a bucket of colored chalk and the liberty to create original art or re-create known works. And community members can get in on the action too, creating smaller works for a lesser fee of $10 for adults and $5 for children.

University of New England students also plan to leave their mark on the day. They will create a giant community mural at City Square.

This year’s street chalk contest theme, an ode to animals titled “Feathery, Furry, Slimy & Scaly,” will be framed by auxiliary activities including a petting zoo, pony rides, a touch tank aquarium, a teddy bear clinic, a puppet show and dog competitions.

The Pete Kilpatrick Band will headline the live entertainment. And fire jugglers and young street performers will roam the city, offering vignettes highlighting a big-scale production of “Tiny Thumbelina” that they will offer at 1 p.m. at Mechanics Park.

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]