By The Virtual Tourist

While it's a tradition that began in Italy, street painting or chalk festivals have become as much a part of spring and summer tradition in the U.S. as barbecues and fireworks. With this in mind, the members and editors of travel website ( have chosen these 10 great street painting festivals as some of their favorites. As backbreaking an activity as ever there was one, this is an art that has been mastered only by a few, making its inevitable impermanence all the more remarkable.

1. The Cleveland Museum of Art Chalk Festival; Cleveland, Ohio

Talk about starting from scratch. At this festival participants can even learn how to make their own chalk! The second-oldest chalk festival in the country, this event was started in 1990 and is now one of the city's great cultural highlights.

2. Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival; Forest Grove, Oregon

If you're really into doing something for the love of it, this is your festival. Held rain or shine, this event offers no prizes -- just a box of chalk and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it's not just rain or time artists have to worry about -- according to a VirtualTourist member who attended, even absent-minded cellphone users have been known to disturb the "paintings."

3. Pasadena Chalk Festival; Pasadena, Calif.

It's not just artists and judges who get into the act here -- spectators can cast their votes for the "People's Choice" category at local stores. Participation in this even is so enormous that it took the 2010 Guinness World Record for the Largest Display of Chalk Art.

4. I Madonnari; Santa Barbara, Calif.

In the true spirit of the Italian street painting tradition, this event also has an Italian market component. Celebrating its 25th year, the festival draws about 25,000 spectators and benefits regional school arts programs.

5. Sarasota Chalk Festival; Sarasota, Fla.

Every year this festival chooses a theme for its artists and this year, they've been no less ambitious than to go for "Pavement Art Through the Ages". With docents leading tours of the artwork, the completed catalogue of work will include everything from "Beaten Earth," a primitive form of pavement art, to full-on 3-D creations.

6. Bloom N Garden N Chalk Festival; Safety Harbor, Fla.

Only in its third year this festival has already attracted some remarkably talented artists. While the competition is primarily for older contestants, the festival has a Kids' Chalk Garden where children can learn about the art of street painting.

7. Balloons Over Bend Children's Festival; Bend, Oregon

If you love street painting but want a little something extra with your viewing, this is the perfect festival. An event within an event this is actually a fundraiser for a local domestic violence and sexual assault service and in addition to the street painting includes a nighttime hot air balloon festival.

8. Eatonton Street Painting Festival; Eatonton, Ga.

This event, including a car show and live concerts, is one of the smaller festivals and probably a great place to start for a beginner. That said, the competitors are exceptionally talented so keep your expectations high.

9. Street Painting Festival; Lake Worth, Fla.

Previous works here have included Vermeer reproductions, three-dimensional dinosaurs and giant Scrabble boards. With an "inventory" of more than 200 paintings this festival has more to look at than many art galleries.

10. SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival; Savannah, Ga.

Open to students, alumni, and prospective students of the Savannah College of Art and Design, this event attracts some astoundingly talented artists. There's even a "Cyberwalk Art" portion of the event that allows those far away (as well as those allergic to chalk!) to enter their work virtually.


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