New features at this year's Arts in the Alley festival will allow visitors to create as well as celebrate the arts.

"We're introducing a community mural tent where we'll have a huge canvas set up with paints and brushes. Everyone will be invited to stop by and add their own contribution to the mural, whether it's a design or words wishing someone well or just their name," said Shawn Conrad, executive director of the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce.

A demonstration tent will feature presentations by artists and crafters, many of whom will offer small projects that visitors will be able to complete, Conrad said.

"We're looking to make Arts in the Alley a more interactive experience for people," she said.

The 38th annual music and arts festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 16, and Sunday, Sept. 17, in the Town Center. The Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce presents the festival, which features more than 100 arts and craft exhibitors, food and entertainment.

The event kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with the Arts in the Alley Community Parade, which is co-sponsored by the Grove City Girls Club.

The parade will begin at Southwest Boulevard and Broadway, travel south down Broadway, head east on Columbus Street, then go south on Wilbur and end at Park Street Intermediate School.

The parade marshal will be Bill Plank, owner of Plank's on Broadway.

"Bill is a blessing to our community," Conrad said. "He's one of those people who steps forward to support everything he can. We're honored to have him as our parade marshal."

The parade will feature more than 125 entries, including floats, antique cars and local businesses, organizations and public officials.

The parade theme is "Spirit of the Community."

The festival gets underway immediately after the parade and will be open until 8 p.m. Saturday. Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Visitors will be able to view and purchase arts and craft pieces from juried artists with exhibit spaces on Broadway from Grove City Road to Grant Avenue. Other arts and craft vendors will be set up on Park Street east and west of Broadway.

"We'll have a variety of art and crafts represented," including fabric art, pottery, wood, glass, jewelry and metal, Conrad said.

"This year we have some fabulous new artists participating in the festival," said Marilyn Reiner, the chamber's events manager. "They will add some new perspectives to the festival to go along with the returning artists that people know and love."

Fine art, photography, Grove City Easel Award entries and craft shows will be on display at City Hall. The Youth Art Show will be presented in the mayor's court at the Safety Building. The quilt show will be held at the Kingston Center, 3226 Kingston Ave.

This year, each of the shows will include awards in both professional and amateur categories.

"It's not really fair for amateurs to be competing against professionals and vice versa," Reiner said. "So we decided to create separate divisions, although amateurs could enter their works in the professional division if they wanted."

People's choice awards also will be presented in each show.

The awards ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday on the Heartland Entertainment Stage. The winners of the Grove City Easel and Helena McComb awards will be announced at that time.

Works that depict Grove City's past, present or future are eligible to be entered for the Grove City Easel Award. The city purchases the winning entry for $2,000 and the artwork will be displayed in City Hall as part of the city's permanent art collection.

Judges in each show choose one piece to enter into the Helena McComb Award.

"It must be a piece that has a floral theme," Conrad said. "Helena McComb was one of the founders of the festival and the family provides $500 for the winning entry."

Entertainment will be presented both days on the Heartland Entertainment Stage.

Saturday's lineup includes Wildfire and Clog 4 U Cloggers, 11:30 a.m.; Spark of Class, the Jackson Middle School show choir, 12:30 p.m.; A Touch of Class, the Grove City High School show choir, 1 p.m.; Carter and Cash, 2:30 p.m.; Linda Dachtyl Quartet, 4:30 p.m.; and Swing's the Thing, 6:30 p.m.

The Grove City High School Marching Band will perform at 11 a.m. Saturday on Park Street east of the old library site. Tethered balloon rides also will be offered from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at that site.

Sunday's entertainment includes Danny and the Linders, 11 a.m.; Blake Soles and the Big City Cowboys, 1:30 p.m.; and Excelsior, Central Crossing High School's show choir, 4 p.m.

Kids' Fun Street will be a special area offering craft and other activities for youngsters, including a bounce house both days.

"The nice thing about this year's festival is that we'll have ample parking because there's no construction going on," Conrad said.

A shuttle will transport visitors to and from the parking lot at Southwest Boulevard and Broadway, the festival site and to the quilt show at the Kingston Center.