SoNo Arts Festival offers art, parade and live music

Sue Brown Gordon has a deep fondness for the SoNo Arts Festival, now going strong in its fourth decade. She has a long history with the festival, first as an exhibiting artist, then a volunteer and now as its festival director.

“To me, it’s my hometown show. It was the first show I did as a professional artist so I have a real place in my heart for this event.”

Taking place Aug. 3-4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, the festival has seen different variations over the years, taken a brief hiatus a few years back and undergone a few rebuilding years recently. Under Brown Gordon’s direction, it has reclaimed its former glory when it was ranked highly among art festivals.

This year’s show, taking place in SoNo’s historic district between Main and Washington streets, welcomes the Garavel Auto Group as presenting sponsor, allowing the festival to remain a free admission event. On both days, the festival’s food and beverage courts will be enhanced by many local restaurants and shops offering everything from sales and weekend specials to festival-themed cocktails and menus.

The main attraction however is art and this juried event features more than 100 artists representing a variety of media from painted wood, wearable and decorative fiber, metalwork and leather to paper arts, glass, ceramics, jewelry, photography and more. Exhibitors will do more than just showcase their work. The artists are only too happy to talk about their creative processes with visitors and even offer demos. All works on exhibit are available for sale.

Also on hand, there will be children’s activities and a children’s art playground, musical performances on the main stage at 50 Washington Street and at pop-ups all over SoNo, as well as the giant puppet parade on Sunday at 2 p.m. — a hallmark of the festival — sponsored by The SoNo Connection this year.

“It’s one of the most magical events you will ever experience. Not everyone knows it’s going to happen but all of a sudden in the middle of this beautiful, populated arts festival you start hearing brass and percussion,” Brown Gordon said. “You look up and this giant floating puppet parade comes marching through this show. Everyone, even the mayor joins in. It’s just one of my favorite moments of the year watching this puppet parade.”

The Funky Dawgs Brass Band will accompany the parade this year. Created by volunteers over several months, this parade will march through the SoNo Arts Festival in a mash-up of color, music and creativity, culminating in a big drum circle under the bridge. “That is just one of the performance events that will pop up and be a big surprise to everyone,” she added. “We have all kinds of things with artists doing impromptu live art, some graffiti on stripped cellophane, kids painting cars and all kinds of activities that are free hands-on.” Jerry’s Artarama in Norwalk is sponsoring some of these activities. “It just seems to me like this year more than ever the community is really participating.”

The local flavor of the festival extends down to the musical performers, who are local musicians and bands that represent Norwalk and Fairfield County’s thriving music scene. The festival lineup includes Vélez, Similar Kind, Earnhardt, A Strange Utopia, Juicy Grapes and Danny Evans performing Saturday; and on Sunday, Justin Graham, Canyon, Avenue and Old School.

“We are all donating a lot of our time for the love of the game because we all really believe in the festival and celebrating the artistic heritage that we have in Norwalk,” Brown Gordon said. “We’re also very happy that we’re getting more younger artists involved so hopefully they can carry the torch.”

The vibe of the festival is a direct reflection of SoNo itself. “Every event that I have worked on or participated in has a flavor. SoNo has distinctive flavor — it’s urban, it’s edgy it’s funky and cool,” she said. “The whole idea is we want to inspire people, we want to have something that is refreshing and inspiring to young artists coming up. The price points are a really good range so that even a kid could buy their first piece of art with their allowance. It’s meant to be something that is accessible to everyone.”

For more information, visit or call 518-852-6478.