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Spring Festival on Ponce a celebrity, nun magnet
by Noreen Cochran
April 10, 2013 10:14 AM | 2857 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAMANTHA M. SHAL<br>Artist Marc James “M.J.” Villanueva of East Point talks about one of the paintings in his "Helix" collection, which he will have available at the Spring Festival on Ponce.
SAMANTHA M. SHAL
Artist Marc James “M.J.” Villanueva of East Point talks about one of the paintings in his "Helix" collection, which he will have available at the Spring Festival on Ponce.
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Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>
Artist Marc Villanueva, right, helps Kevin Ogle, sales and promotions manager for Broadway in Atlanta, with his nun costume in preparation for the Nun Run, which will be held during the Spring Festival on Ponce.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal
Artist Marc Villanueva, right, helps Kevin Ogle, sales and promotions manager for Broadway in Atlanta, with his nun costume in preparation for the Nun Run, which will be held during the Spring Festival on Ponce.
slideshow
Staff / Samantha M. Shal<br>Above, from left, AFFPS executive director Patrick Dennis, Rosalynn Carter, President Jimmy Carter and Olmsted Park Alliance executive director Kirk Elifson at the inaugural Spring Festival on Ponce.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal
Above, from left, AFFPS executive director Patrick Dennis, Rosalynn Carter, President Jimmy Carter and Olmsted Park Alliance executive director Kirk Elifson at the inaugural Spring Festival on Ponce.
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Arts and crafts booths nestled throughout Olmsted Linear Park near Decatur may be a backdrop for celebrity photo ops this weekend.

“This is the second Spring Festival on Ponce,” said organizer Randall Fox, of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. “The first one was celebrity-filled. We had Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. They were here for six hours. They bought a lot.”

Besides the former president and first lady, the 2012 event attracted film actors Matthew McConaughey, Jasmine Guy and Phylicia Rashad, who dropped by between takes.

Fox said “location, location, location” was the key.

“It was located near the filming that was happening in Midtown and it’s an unusual park,” he said. “It’s nostalgic without being overcrowded.”

The setting is a favorite of festival artist Marc James “M.J.” Villanueva.

“It’s really beautiful. The community has put millions into restoring the park. You feel like you can meander and enjoy fine art,” he said.

Villanueva finds the park an appropriate place to showcase his mixed-media work, which combines natural and man-made elements.

“I’m a recyclist. I recycle smashed wine glasses. I’ve been working with sawdust and coffee grounds,” said the native Hawaiian. “When I go back home, I pick up seashells and coconut fiber.”

Villanueva is one of 125 festival artists, the majority of whom reupped after attracting 45,000 attendees last year.

“The great thing about this one is it’s really embraced by the Druid Hills neighborhood and the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance,” Fox said about stakeholders.

Festival partners Fifth Third Bank and Broadway Across America’s “Sister Act: The Musical” are helping to raise funds for the nonprofit CURE Childhood Cancer.

“In celebration of the show, the Nun Dash is a quarter-mile dash and attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people gathered, dressed as nuns,” nonprofit Executive Director Kristin Connor said. “Yes, all race participants will be dressed as nuns.”

The record is 1,436 in Ireland, set June 30.

Fox recommended future “nuns” register Saturday by 11:30 a.m. for the noon official count.

Registration is $40 and includes a nun costume.

“We’ve reached out to a couple celebrities to see if they will do that,” Fox said. “But the goal is to support [the nonprofit] with a fun fundraiser.”

The gesture is typical, Villanueva said, for Fox and partner Patrick Dennis, nicknamed “The Guys.”

“Their festivals are about bringing the community together,” he said.

If you go:
What: Spring Festival On Ponce
When: Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Olmsted Linear Park, 1451 Ponce de Leon Ave.
Cost: Free admission
Information: www.festivalonponce.com

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