Fish and flair: One Spark kicks off downtown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One Spark is about culture, innovation and flair, and there's so much of it downtown already.

It started Wednesday with Colonel Crackers, the festival's giant mascot that's a can't-miss in Hemming Plaza.

The giant goldfish was created by University of North Florida students.

"Styrofoam, fiberglass, and resin," UNF art student Gillian Harper said. "A lot of all-nighters."

Crackers is about 14 feet long and 9 feet high. And its creators say they want to make it the focal point of the plaza during One Spark, which began Wednesday and lasts through Sunday.

"The idea is to present visual surprise, to have art in public places, and to have things that delight and beautify our city," said art historian Wayne Wood.

Crackers is just one of the things people aren't used to seeing in downtown Jacksonville. There's a collection of creativity, including paintings, sculptures and music galore. And there are even a few break-dancers, too.

Freethinkers pitched their ideas and innovations, some out of this world and others taking people back to another time.

"It's crazy. A lot of people, a lot of cars, a lot of food," creator Carl Peterkin said.

The crowds came out fast and early Wednesday, filling the streets with spectators. Restaurants in the food village say they expect to serve thousands a day.

"It's been great. And the people are so curious," said Barbara Bredehoeft, of BB's Restaurant and Bar. "You get all walks of life. That part is really good."

Many people who went downtown Wednesday said the family atmosphere was enjoyable, a festival people of all ages could appreciate.

The opening ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Hemming Plaza. More than 630 creators are part of the five-day event, which is expected to draw more than 150,000 people.

To read more about what you need to know for One Spark, click here.

Creators make pitches on stage

Octavius Davis was the first creator to pitch his idea Wednesday on the pitch deck at Hemming Plaza. And for the entrepreneur, the move was strategic.

"I noticed that everybody was staying away from No. 1, and I'm more of an offensive kind of person, and I was like, 'You know, people typically remember the first person and the last person, so I figure they'll remember us first,'" Davis said.

He shared his personal story of what motivated him to start WPOD media, a company dedicated to bringing quality and positive content to online radio and social media.

"They allow you to map your rides, they allow you to tell different calories, they allow you to tell many things," Davis said.

From radio to bikes, every creator on the pitch deck had five minutes to explain to the crowd what their project is all about.

Winder Hughes, co-founder of Hi-Fi, a social network he says brings hashtags to life, decided to let a video do most of the talking.

"We knew that that would be a very short way of really distilling the whole concept down where everyone that would walk by or listen to it they could easily get it," Hughes said.

He said it's a presentation that almost didn't happen.

"At first we weren't going to sign up at all for One Spark, but that was a good thing that we did because it really rallied our whole company around moving everything forward," Hughes said.

Between Wednesday and Sunday every creator at One Spark will get their chance on stage.

For Shimmy Chic Fitness, that day is Friday. And the belly dance class instructors say they'll be bringing the same interactive energy from the street to the stage.

"We want them to take away that belly dancing is not just for the dancers on stage, that anybody can do it, that it's a lot of fun," Rafaella Degracia said. "It's a great workout."

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