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University Circle hosts annual CircleFest

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Cleveland: University Circle hosted the 18th Annual CircleFest Dec. 4, 2011 attracting more than 4,000 people to join in festive winter activities. The opening day offers free admission to surrounding museums with activities for children and adults alike.

Julie Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at Cleveland Botanical Gardens, said the festival is a wonderful time for families to visit and explore the garden, “We are trying to create traditions for families,” she said.  The Gardens holds competitions for best gingerbread houses for professional and amateurs.

This year’s winning gingerbread structure is a miniature replica of Russian landmark, the St. Basil’s Cathedral.  Adorned with M&Ms and other delicious candies, JoAnn Van Luntern captured the beauty of the church and amplified the tastiness of the gingerbread house to win first place in the adult amateur category.

Other notable gingerbread structures included an Eifel Tower replica, an Apple desktop, and a treehouse. Anderson said three judges from media and local bakery chose the winning pieces.

Visitors also enjoyed time with the glasshouse critters like the giant African centipede, hedgehog. Newly hatched butterflies were released in the Costa Rican glasshouse.  Nearly 30 species of butterflies float free in the glasshouse year round.

Joe Mohalik said the pupas are bought from butterfly farms in Ecuador and delivered to the Gardens as they are ready to complete their metamorphosis. “They live for 2 – 5 weeks,” he said. New butterflies are released into the Garden everyday at 2 p.m.

Across the Oval, a makeshift ice rink is open to the public until late January 2012. Children and adults can rent skates for only $3.

Nearby, Jeff Meyers of Elegant Ice Creations Inc. transformed blocks of ice into beautiful, seasonal sculptures.  He mesmerized the crowd as his power tools carved flawlessly into the block to shape the ice.  Meyers has been carving sculptures for the past ten years and said it was a job he landed right after completing high school. 

As Meyers carved a Santa head, the real Santa Clause made a guest appearance at the Natural History Museums.

The Cleveland Museum of Art offered hands-on crafts for children, with lantern making workshops. Joann Cowan, volunteer at CMA, said the Women’s Council members volunteer throughout the year to make lanterns for sale at the gift shop; proceeds benefit the museum’s programs.

Guests enjoyed professional exhibitions of exotic lanterns created by Robin VanLeer. The evening ended with a lantern parade, around the circle despite the rain.

Musical performances and concerts were held at various locations and free horse drawn carriage rides and trolleys were available to shuttle guests around the circle.

Many displays and activities will continue through the holiday season; “We invite people to come back and enjoy,” said Anderson.


Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/06/11 13:04:11 -0800.





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