By KIM LEATHERMAN

Staff Writer

The end of July is looming, and that means the opening of the 29th annual Caladium Festival is just around the corner.

Stuart Park will be the center of the action at 131 E. Interlake Blvd. Opening ceremonies will kick off at 10 a.m. July 26 with the national anthem sung by Marti Capodiferro. The festival closes at 3 p.m. July 28.

The family-friendly festival is free to attend and will have free entertainment all weekend long. Parking is also free.

Lake Placid may be a tiny town, but it is well-known for some amazing things and it shows in its alternative names: Town of Murals, Reader’s Digest’s Most Interesting Town in 2013 and the Caladium Capital of the World.

There’s only one thing to do when you have a moniker like Caladium Capital of the World and that is to live up to it by throwing a major festival where everything is centered around the colorful foliage. Artists, jewelers, crafters and photographers pay homage to the heart-shaped tropical leaves as well.

Guests can purchase caladium bulbs and plants in a variety of pot sizes and hanging baskets. The vibrant colors will tempt guests to purchase them and give their green thumbs some exercise. T-shirts with the year’s winning designs will also be for sale. Festival-goers will meet local growers and get expert advice on taking care of their caladiums.

Gearheads will love the Caladium Car & Bike Show at 9 a.m. July 27 at DeVane Park, just a short walk down Interlake Boulevard from Stuart Park. Different categories will be judged for car-themed prizes. Entertainment and local organizations will be selling food. The Jaycees will be selling beer.

The children’s and adult floral arrangement participants will have their creations displayed at the Community Room at Mid-Florida Credit Union adjacent to Stuart Park. The children’s and adult artwork will be exhibited in the same room. The art pieces will be judged and attendees can have a say by voting for People’s Choice Awards.

All of this excitement and walking can build up an appetite. Dotted throughout Stuart Park will be local civic and non-profit groups selling lunches, snacks and ice creams to cool off with. Large tents will offer shaded picnic areas, conveniently located near the entertainment stage.

Music will run the gamut from oldies, to country and rock and roll. Entertainers like David Mains, Moriah Ruth, The New Floridians and Josh Cobb and Wynndee Goleman with the Orange Blossom Country Music Association are just a small sampling of the musical guests who will wow the crowds during the festival. Other entertainers like the Mountain Dew Cloggers are returning to thrill guests once again.

After all of the walking and sightseeing, take a seat and relax on an air-conditioned bus for a tour of the caladium fields where the exotic tubers are grown. Riders will see first hand how caladiums have been incorporated into commercial and residential landscaping.

The tours provide cool comfort and a fun way to learn from local growers. The bus tours are very popular and fill up quickly. To purchase a bus tour ticket, call the Greater Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce at 863-465-4331.

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