Piece written by Julie Tolar.
When you picture Pensacola, Florida, you generally picture pristine white sand beaches along the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But, beyond the beach, Pensacola has a vibrant cultural community dedicated to sharing their love of the arts. Home to its own theater, symphony, ballet, museum and opera, this town has a year-round affinity for cultural events. Pensacola has everything needed to vacation artfully.
Out of this community’s love of the arts, the Foo Foo Festival was born. What is the Foo Foo Festival? It’s a 12-day celebration created to highlight the rich cultural community with special events and cutting-edge artistic experiences taking place all throughout Pensacola. Essentially, the Foo Foo Festival is Pensacola’s love letter to the community and its visitors. It’s a way for this town to share its passion for the arts. The Foo Foo Festival is how Pensacola gives back and celebrates all of the beauty that surrounds them while highlighting the artistic and cultural endeavors that bring joy to so many.
This year the Foo Foo Festival takes place November 3rd-14th when the weather in Pensacola is nothing short of perfect. Beautiful beach days drift into cooler nights that allow so many of the festival’s outdoor events to be enjoyed to the fullest. All different types of art and music abound in this beachside town during the two-week celebration. From quaint bed and breakfasts, luxury beach rentals, family-friendly hotels and condos, there are so many options to choose for your stay. Just a short drive or quick flight from Atlanta makes Pensacola easily accessible and ideal for a weekend getaway, or a mid-week stay.
Foo Foo celebrates and showcases all types of art and music. It also incorporates some long-standing cultural traditions like the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival. The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival ranks as one of the nation’s top juried art festivals and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. What’s even more extraordinary than fifty years of bringing art to the community is that the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is a one hundred percent volunteer organization and is a first-time Foo Foo Festival grant recipient this year. For fifty years a group of Pensacola residents has coordinated, cultivated, and hosted this art festival. “A hundred percent it’s a labor of love,” Kathy Dunagan, Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival’s 50th Celebration Committee Chair tells Atlanta Magazine.
Dunagan, who is also a long-time committee member, says the volunteer group isn’t comprised of artists, but rather Pensacola residents that want to share their love of art and their sense of community. “We love it. We do consider it a celebration. Our mission is to put on the best festival possible every year.” This year to celebrate their 50th anniversary the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival will host a free outdoor concert featuring renowned, GRAMMY Award-winning banjo player, Béla Fleck, which will be produced with grant-assisted funds from the Pensacola Foo Foo Festival.
The Foo Foo Festival includes the Stamped LGBTQIA+ Festival, Pensacola’s LGBTQIA+ film festival, November 10-13. This year Stamped celebrates its 10th anniversary, and there will be some very exciting guests to help honor the impact that Stamped and the LQBTQIA+ community have had in Pensacola. Sid Williams-Heath, Executive Director of Pensacola Little Theatre and Vice President of the Stamped LGBTQIA+ Film Festival is proud to have the art that Stamped features coincide with Foo Foo Festival. He describes Foo Foo as having something for every kind of art lover, “No matter what your taste of art is, it is just art everywhere.”
Foo Foo Festival is also about introducing new and exciting pieces of art to the community. This year the Pensacola Little Theater’s contribution to Foo Foo is Unrequited: An Immersive Affair, it’s an enveloping re-telling of Romeo and Juliet taking place October 28th through November 9th. Much like Sleep No More in New York, attendees will be fully immersed in the world of Romeo and Juliet as they walk through the houses of Capulet and Montague for a modern interpretation of the classic Shakespeare tale. Shakespeare lovers and non-lovers alike will find this unique piece of experiential theater riveting and memorable.
Pensacola is gifted with natural beauty and beaches, truly making it The Way to Beach™. But its greatest gift is the community of people who are warm and welcoming and want to share their love of the arts. The Foo Foo Festival is Pensacola’s way of celebrating and welcoming friends from all around the country. The beauty of Foo Foo is that you can enjoy the scenic beaches, art and culture as Williams-Heath says, “You don’t have to choose, if you come to visit at this sweet spot, you can experience everything.”