Art Festival Fever

South Miami keeps partying

SAT 3/19

If the City of South Miami seems to have gone cuckoo for culture, mounting its second outdoor arts and crafts show in less than month, it may be because the family-oriented hamlet has gotten the crowd-pleasing block party down to a science. ArtSouthMiami, not to be confused with February's South Miami Arts and Crafts Festival, features more than 100 booths of every art form imaginable and a Food Oasis boasting a feast of regional and ethnic specialties. Today and Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., art lovers can scour troves of leather and silver work, hand-painted linens, and wooden toys, not to mention painting, photography, and sculpture juried by a panel of seasoned professionals. Others seeking to tickle the palate can expect an unforgettable foray into gastronomic experiences both exotic and traditional, promises event chairman Joe Garcia. "This year we have food vendors coming from as far as Chicago, and we will be serving everything from Greek, Haitian, and Latin specialties to those All-American favorites: ribs, hot dogs, and curly fries."

FUNscape, a combination amusement park, talent show, and immersion in the creative process, is one of the festival highlights, offering puppet- and hat-making classes, painting, and clay working as well as several stages of nonstop dance and music performances. "You can expect lots of emerging talent," Garcia adds, "wholesome fun for the entire family to enjoy, and an exciting creative environment where parents, children, and their pets can stroll along as if on old-fashioned Main Street, U.S.A." The festival on Sunset Drive and South Dixie Highway is free. Call 305-666-7469, or visit -- Carlos Suarez de Jesus

No Beef About It

SUN 3/20

Order a burger with the works. Juicy tomatoes, ketchup, extra onions. And hold the meat. That's one way to savor the twentieth annual Great American Meatout, a campaign encouraging folks to enjoy healthy, animal-friendly fare. Fire up the barbecue grill, invite friends and family, and dish out grilled portobello mushrooms, peppers, and corn on the cob, suggests Joyce DiBenedetto-Colton, co-chair of EarthSave Miami, which promotes plant-based foods. People often are curious about those who skip meat. "What do you eat?" they ask. "Everything else," DeBenedetto-Colton replies. "Celebrate by eating all the things you love to eat that are not meat. Broaden your horizons. It really becomes interesting." EarthSave Miami offers monthly potluck dinners. Visit www.earthsrg or for ideas. -- Patti Roth

Italian Book Flair

But no pasta primavera

SAT 3/19

Ciao bella! To celebrate its latest exhibition, "New Horizons in Contemporary Italian Painting," the Main Library (101 W. Flagler St., Miami) returns to Donatello's day with a free Italian Renaissance Festival. Dancers and characters in traditional costumes will add local color to poetry readings, lectures about Italian literature, and music by Generica. Watch famous literary characters exchange blows in a battle of flowery words and ask the Leonardo da Vinci impersonator what he thinks about all the hype over Dan Brown's novel. Children can get their giggles out with the animated tales of Nicolas the Storyteller or create a macaroni masterpiece at one of the craft stations. And don't forget to check out the exhibit culled from Italy's PremioCeleste painting competition for student, emerging, and established artists. That's amore today from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Call 305-375-5180, or visit -- Lyssa Oberkreser

It's Their Time to Roar

Brunch, jazz, literature, and sisterhood

SAT 3/19

At what other fundraising event could you find a New York Times best-selling author and an ex-con sharing the stage? And The Women Gather isn't your usual stuffy female function. "This is purely an event to satisfy the senses, to make you feel good, and loving, and luxurious," the visionary herself, Lorna Owens, explains. And The Women Gather offers an intelligent, liberating forum with live jazz, makeovers by MAC cosmetics, and a sumptuous brunch buffet. Expect erudite discussion from five authors, including Liz Tuccillo, He's Just Not That Into You; Geralyn Lucas, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy; and Victoria Moran, Younger by the Day (right). Ladies who have benefited from Owens's charity, Women Behind Bars, will then read their poetry. It begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $65 in advance and $95 at the door. Call 305-573-8423. --Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik

Blow Your Own

SAT 3/19

In days of yore, the conch shell provided long-distance communication for the Calusa Indians. Sailors puckered up and blew to signal rescuers that a sinking ship had been spotted. Today the trumpeting will emanate from the 43rd annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest. If you're tone deaf, fret not -- no musical ability is required to be a conch honker. Quality, duration, loudness, and unique noises are all considered in choosing a winner. Bring your own "instrument" or buy one at the site. Shell serenaders will sound the mighty sea mollusk at 1:30 p.m. on the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort, 0 Duval St., Key West. Call 305-294-9501, or visit -- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik