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Festival free for all?

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Fabulous fall weather brought thousands of people to downtown Orlando this past weekend, further lured by two major festivals: the annual Fiesta in the Park craft fair, and the first-ever Festival Calle Orange, a street festival that played to the region's diverse Latin cultures.

As with all events in Lake Eola Park, the craft fair that spilled into Robinson Street and Central Boulevard was free. By contrast, entry to the Festival Calle Orange, which fenced off three blocks of Orange Avenue, cost eight bucks at the gate. The money bought salsa and merengue acts on three stages, but not the right to come and go; once inside, people could not leave and expect to be readmitted without a new ticket.

The latter sadly discouraged sampling of both festivals that would have created a desirable mix of the demographics, and revived bad memories of the old Light Up Orlando street festivals, which also required a ticket. Even with admission, Festival Calle Orange -- thrown by a for-profit production company -- drew an estimated 15,000. But the lesson continues to be that people turn out when given a reason -- and the hope is that one day, Orlando will become like other grown-up cities and launch its own free street party with appeal to all -- one that makes available both music and beer.


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