By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
FONDA -- In 1996 a group of volunteers realized there weren't enough opportunities for young people interested in art and music during the summer, so they decided to create a multi-generational experience that began with a musical concert.
Today, that group is known as the Friends of the Visual and Performing Arts and the effort they started has blossomed into an annual music and arts festival, known as Kaleidoscope, that draws people from all over the county.
"Our main focus is to serve this dark hole in the center of Montgomery County where there is not a lot going on," FOVA volunteer Karen Kosinski said. "We get participants from both sides of the county as well as outside, including Fulton and Schoharie counties."
This year's event is being held Sunday in the Kane Entertainment Building at the Fonda Fairgrounds, on Route 30A in Fonda from noon to 5 p.m.
The event will include live musical entertainment from several bands, including the Melody Makers, the Glove Community Winds, and the community's Summer Jazz Ensemble, which will be directed this year by Greg Kowalczyk, the Fonda-Fultonville Middle School band director.
Off-stage activities will include art exhibits, a children's art table, hands-on art workshops, and an interactive art experience, which is a community group art piece.
This year's theme is "Play with Clay" and festival goers can pick up a piece of clay, mold it into a design, and then find a spot on the group sculpture to place it.
"We have done a lot of things in the past but we never did something like this. We never got people's hands dirty," Kosinski said. "It is always a surprise at the end of the day."
The workshops are geared to youths from seventh grade to adult, which Kosinski said is the hallmark of FOVA.
"All of our programs are multi-generational because they can learn from each other," she said. "The adults can teach youth that the art is a lifelong exploration, that you can continue to play your musical instrument later in life."
In addition, a food booth and raffles will be available throughout the day.
The festival is free and open to the public.
Kosinski said that since the program started 19 years ago, she has seen more opportunities in the arts become available in the area, such as the formation of organizations like Creative Connections in Amsterdam. There are more summer programs like that offered at the Walter Elwood Museum, also in Amsterdam. Even the local libraries have created several art endeavors, she said.
"We like to think we played a little bit of a role in opening people's eyes about the need for arts and music in the area," Kosinski said.