Downtown Crowd

Foo Foo Fest

What’s a Foo Foo? After the roaring success of the last year’s festival of the same name, everyone surely knows by now (it’s a 19th-century shipping term to describe an impromptu musical celebration comprised of seamen). Foo Foo Fest is a smorgasbord of arts, culture, sports, cuisine, heritage and history to be on display for visitors and residents alike. Foo Foo Fest is also a previously unprecedented collaboration between various governmental, tourism and non-profit entities to market the region as a whole.

It all started about 15 years ago, when the now-defunct Arts Council of Northwest Florida, now Arts Culture and Entertainment, Inc. (ACE), decided to lobby on behalf of arts and culture issues in the community for funding from the City, County Commissioners, and chamber of commerce. There was initially hesitance, said ACE board president David Bear, as those entities did not understand the value of an overarching marketing initiative that promoted cultural entities as part of one large tourism package.

“There were a lot of individual organizations fighting for their own funding, instead of working together to accomplish a joint goal,” said Bear. “We wanted to promote collaboration and working together in a way that targeted community outreach, instead of just artistic value.”

This drive toward umbrella funding and marketing grew alongside downtown Pensacola’s business and cultural renaissance, and slowly people in governmental power began to see the value. It was important, Bear argued, to extend Pensacola’s tourism season from the peak summer beach months to the colder, less busy months toward the end of the calendar.

“The end of the year saw hotel vacancies and slow restaurant business,” said Bear. “But we have so much to offer during those times. We just had to get everyone working together to get it out there.”

Many of Pensacola’s peer and aspirant cities, like Savannah, St. Augustine, Asheville and more, attract millions of cultural tourists each year. Smart marketing, an existing infrastructure, and partnership on the local level drive this strong industry. When the chamber of commerce separated from its tourism development arm to form Visit Pensacola, Bear saw the chance for funding and a facilitator.

The first year was a huge success, with over two-dozen events sprinkling the calendar from Nov. 6 to 17, 2014.

Organizations like Artel Gallery, Ballet Pensacola, Frank Brown Foundation, Pensacola Little Theatre, Pensacola Museum of Art and Pensacola Sports Association received 100 percent funding for the facilitation of an event. In 2015, the grant structure was changed slightly to fund 85 percent of the event costs, in order to ensure that organizations have some existing funding to pledge and skin in the game.

“We can also meet a greater demand for programs if we can spread the funding just a little thinner,” said Bear. “More and more people are applying for the grants, so we want to ensure event diversity.”

This year, Bear foresees about 25 to 30 events, some of which will receive grants, and some of which will be filed under the Foo Foo banner because they coincide with the dates. The grant process is relatively easy, with a one-page application, cover page and event budget. To not receive money but still have an event listed alongside the Foo Foo platform, participants must simply go to the and fill out an application and check a certain category.

“We want to have as many events as possible,” said Bear. “We don’t want any day-long gaps without things to do. If you have even a small gap, people may leave.”

2015’s Foo Foo Fest is Nov. 5 through 16.

Science on the Street
Date: Nov. 5 – 16
Location: Downtown Pensacola
Event Website:
The Pensacola MESS (Math, Engineering, Science & Stuff) Hall is bringing science to the streets with their interactive exhibit “Science on the Street,” an interactive science experience. This exciting and educational event will line the streets of downtown Pensacola with shared activities that will be available for the entire duration of the festival, 24 hours a day. Event-goers can take a stroll down the Planet Walk, a 1 km pathway that provides participants with a sense of scale of the solar system and information about the planets. Become a scientific tool and learn firsthand about the science behind optical illusions, perception, and balance. Guests are invited to share their discoveries through group exhibits that require the help of family and friends working together. These include a musical bench where the bench will emit different music, depending on the degree and type of contact between two individuals.

Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show
Date: Nov. 6 (gates at 3 pm); Nov. 7 (gates at 8 am)
Location: NAS Pensacola
Tickets: General Admission (free); Seated tickets avail ($7)
Event Website:
The 2015 NAS Pensacola Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show will be held aboard the installation, NAS Pensacola, on November 6 and 7. Established in 1914, NAS Pensacola was the first air station commissioned by the U.S. Navy for the training of aviators in the infancy of Naval Aviation. The 2015 Blue
Angels Homecoming Air Show will feature a variety of performers showcasing the best in both military and civilian aviation, of course highlighted by the final 2015 performances by our home-based Blue Angels. This year starts with the Night Show on Friday night complete with night time aircraft and performers capped off by the largest fireworks display in the Pensacola area. On Saturday, enjoy the daytime air show filled with high-flying performers.

Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival
Date: Nov. 6 – 8, from 9 am – 5 pm (Fri. & Sat.); 9 am – 4 pm (Sun.)
Location: Seville Square
Tickets: Free
Event Website:
The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is one of the best-regarded, most popular arts festivals in the United States. The three-day, juried art show draws more than 200 of the nation’s best painters, potters, sculptors, jewelers, graphic artists, craftsmen and other artists. The arts festival is centered in Downtown Pensacola’s beautiful historic Seville Square, and features live musicians hitting the right notes from the Main Stage with sounds ranging from bluegrass to Cajun and blues to jazz and classical; performance companies, dance schools, community groups, and area folk groups; and craft artists demonstrating traditional arts, crafts and trades, including blacksmithing, engraving, spinning, weaving and other skills in the Heritage Arts Area.

The Headless Horseman Ballet
Date: Nov. 6 – 7, begins at 7:30 pm
Location: Pensacola Cultural Center
Tickets: $20 – $32
Event Website:
Ballet Pensacola is bringing back the highly acclaimed, and now extended, tale of The Headless Horseman, created by Richard Steinert, on October 30 and 31, and November 6 and 7, 2015 during this year’s Foo Foo Festival. Watch as the hero Ichabod Crane battles an evil witch and her cursed horseman to rescue his village from their evil doing. The Headless Horseman features a fully articulating horse ridden by performers, glowing cauldrons, and intricate village and forest scenes. Extend your ballet experience by attending open rehearsals and a backstage tour. Open rehearsals will be held Nov. 10-12 where guests can learn more about the creative process and will have an opportunity to discuss with the artists and choreographers. Backstage tours will be offered on November 6. Guests can view the sets up close and talk with Artistic Director Richard Steinert, Production Designer Lance Brannon, and Ballet Mistress and Costume Designer Christine Duhon.

11th Annual Pensacola Marathon
Date: Nov. 8, begins at 6:30 am
Location: Admiral Mason Park (Veteran’s Memorial Park)
Event Website:
Combine Veteran’s Day weekend, historic Downtown Pensacola, and sugary white sand beaches, then add a running route atop the bluffs overlooking Escambia Bay, where runners will welcome the day with a beautiful sunrise and you have the perfect recipe for the 11th Annual Pensacola Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, Nov 8. The race begins and ends at Veteran’s Memorial Park on the bayfront then winds its way along a 13.1 mile circuit of the city for the half marathoners and a full 26.2 loop for the full marathon. The course features jaunts through Pensacola’s historic neighborhoods and the downtown district, live bands and cheering Pensacolians. The finish line is next to the Nation’s only replica of the National Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The Pensacola Marathon is also a Boston Qualifier.

Pop-Up Hot Shop: Glass Blowing on the Move
Date:  Nov. 6 – 16
Location: Multiple
Tickets: Free
Event Website:
First City Art Center is hosting Pensacola’s first portable glass art blowing experience. The “Pop-Up Hot Shop” will travel the streets of downtown Pensacola creating beautiful pieces of glass art in front of live audiences, moving to a new location daily. Locations include the Pensacola Bay Brewery and the Artel Gallery. Guests are invited to participate and learn the art of glass blowing by making or custom ordering a variety of items. The “Pop-Up Hot Shop” is managed by the talented Georgian glass artist Phil Vinson, and a FCAC Glass Arts fellow.

Back on the Blocks Festival
Date: Nov. 13 – 14
Location: Belmont-Devilliers Neighborhood
Tickets: TBD
Event Website:
Back on the Blocks is celebrating the rhythm and soul of the art and music of the historic Belmont DeVilliers neighborhood, The Blocks. For two days, the streets of this remarkable neighborhood will play host to performing, literary, and visual arts of the classic music of rhythm and blues, jazz, blues, funk, and neo-soul genres. The festival will feature four different areas of interest:
ArtBlocks: an outdoor installation of murals depicting the culture of the African American experience, and an indoor exhibit showcasing the multidimensional culture of art.
AuthorTalk: a literary and poetic event featuring nationally recognized authors and poets
Roots, Rhythm, and Movement: a live theatrical and musical retrospective of African American ballroom dance parties
BlockParty: a street party with the live music of rhythm and blues, jazz, blues, funk, and neb-soul genres, a second line processional, and a DJ competition.

Clean Energy Fest
Date: Nov. 14, 11 am to 5 pm
Location: Historic Sacred Heart Hospital Building
Tickets: Free
Event Website:
Bringing together visionary artists, the Clean Energy Fest is celebrating the future of clean energy through live music, food, art competitions and much more at the historic Sacred Heart Hospital Building on 12th Ave., in the historic East Hill Neighborhood. A juried art competition, The Future of Energy asked artists of all ages to showcase an energy future (wind, solar, people power, etc.) in all genres of art and design. Artwork for this innovative exhibition will be judged by artists and designers from the Gulf Coast professional art community, university faculty and clean energy initiative leaders. Team Green World is the featured performance act — they’re a coalition of artists and musicians who use entertainment and education to encourage environmental stewardship.

Popera in the Park: Featuring the “Foo Foo” Three Tenors
Date: Nov. 15, beginning at 3 pm
Location: Blue Wahoos Stadium at Fetterman Field
Tickets: Free (w/paid VIP options)
Event Website:
The Pensacola Opera will emulate the phenomenon of Popera made popular by the world-famous Three Tenors: Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras. The performance will re-kindle the excitement of the original Three Tenors with a concert featuring big vocal sounds, accompanied by the lush sounds of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra in a non-classical venue — Blue Wahoos Stadium at Fetterman Field. This will be a sweepingly emotional program of selections from well-known operas, Broadway musicals and popular songs. The program will feature the music of Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti and Bernstein with selections from West Side Story, Candide, The Merry Widow, Grand Opera, and even Mario Lanza’s Be My Love. Artistic Director Kyle Marrero has assembled a trio of electrifying singers for the event: Arnold Rawls, Adam Diegel, and David Portillo. All three of these beautiful singers regularly appear in the major opera houses, orchestras, and festivals throughout the world.