With Spoleto Festival USA fast approaching, the city will soon be awash with world renowned dancers, singers, musicians, and acrobat/actor hybrids.

Before donning your best Gaillard gear to take in the highly anticipated Spoleto 2017 lineup, be sure to check out some solid productions by local creatives at the 35th annual North Charleston Arts Festival. Pre-fest events start this weekend, and the official fest runs from Wed. May 3-Sun. May 7. We’ve highlighted some must-see exhibits, performances, and other happenings below.

Pre-Fest Events
In City Block, Lowcountry native Fletcher Williams III gets personal, delving into his relationships with controversial issues he’s addressed in the past, including housing inequities and gun violence. His pieces for this exhibit include a sculpture made with painted wood, sweetgrass, and handwoven palmetto roses, as well as pieces made with metal flake and automotive paint. The opening night reception will be this Fri. April 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Historic Reynolds Avenue Fire Station. Refreshments will be served and music will be provided by DJ Black Dave. The event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 3
Hunter Gardner will perform his one-man show, “Drinking with Jesus” at The Sparrow from 9 to 10 p.m. The event is free, but you must be 21 or older to attend. Recovering “churchaholic” Gardner tells his own life story of growing up in a Christian household in Winston-Salem, N.C., leaving for college and partying too hard, returning to the church, and then moving to the Holy City.

Thursday, May 4
The North Charleston Farmers Market kicks off Thurs. May 4 from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Felix Davis Community Center Grounds. The market, which runs every Thursday through October 26, features locally grown produce, artisan goods, kids’ activities, and live music. On opening day Chris Dodson and the Blues Deluxe Duo will perform and Dashi will be the featured food truck.

The inaugural Arts Fest Arty Block Party takes place in the Olde Village area of North Chuck from 5 to 9 p.m. Vendor booths will feature local artists and makers, and arts-related businesses — including Artist & Craftsman, Girls Rock Charleston, and the Charleston Young Artist Guild  — will line the streets. Kids can enjoy free face painting and bouncy castles while ‘rents will enjoy tunes from the Shem Creek Boogie Band and Daniel D., a live painting demo from artist kolpeace, and an interactive community art project by artist/musician Kris Manning.

Midtown Productions will present the Fantasticks, the world’s longest running musical, inside the Duvall Center at 7:30 p.m. The musical made its off-Broadway debut in 1960 and has since bewitched audiences with its tale of two fathers who trick their children into falling in love. Tickets range from $20-$29 and food and beverages will be available for purchase.

Friday, May 5
Torreah “Cookie” Washington leads a free lunch and lecture on fiber art from noon to 2 p.m. at North Charleston City Hall. Fiber and textile enthusiasts bring a bag lunch and Washington, who has more than 25 years of experience as a textile artist, takes attendees on a guided tour of the 11th annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition.

Freehouse Brewery, located on a scenic stretch of waterfront property, hosts a bluegrass and beer event from 7 to 9 p.m. YeeHaw Junction will get your feet tappin, Freehouse offers up beer flights for just ten bucks, and Big Boned BBQ, Fauzia’s Kitchen, and King of Pops will be onsite serving up eats.

Saturday, May 6
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Charleston Area Convention Center is open to the public to come view exhibitions of judged fine art and photography at the Arts Fest Expo. There will also be SC Palmetto Hands fine crafts, Tri-County youth art, a Lowcountry Gem and Mineral Show, kids’ activities, and an outdoor food court. There will be music and dance performances starting at 11 a.m. with the Deninufay African Drum and Dance Company and ending at 4 p.m. with the Charleston School of the Arts Sinfonietta, a string orchestra comprised of high school students. You can find the full schedule of performers online.

Sunday, May 7
Music educator and choral conductor Nathan L. Nelson and 70 members of Lowcountry Voices perform “In Bright Mansions: A Tribute to Roland M. Carter.” Mr. Carter will be in attendance as an honored guest, and the choir will perform Carter’s well-known arrangements including “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “In Bright Mansions Above.” The concert begins at 5 p.m. at the St. Peters AME Church and tickets are available at the door or in advance for $10.

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