SPARKcon will fill downtown Raleigh with the arts this weekend

After a period of on-again-off-again uncertainty, SPARKcon 2018 is on again this weekend, bringing art, fashion, dance, comedy, street painting and more creativity to downtown Raleigh.

But the multi-day festival, which last year attracted thousands of people, has encountered a few challenges along the way.

The first challenge was financial with a $22,500 shortfall in sponsorship money that left the free festival’s future survival in doubt. But after organizers were able to crowd-fund enough money to rescue the festival, it was back on.

Except Hurricane Florence had other plans. The storm brought heavy rains and catastrophic flooding to North Carolina, and SPARKcon’s original Sept. 13-16 weekend was canceled along with numerous other outdoor events.

But it has been rescheduled to this weekend, and the big “SPARKcon XIII Do-Over” will get underway Thursday night. Here’s what you should know.

1. The basics

SPARKcon features dozens of activities and events at venues throughout downtown under the umbrella of 14 different “Sparks.” Think artSPARK, circusSPARK, fashionSPARK, filmSPARK and more. The family friendly event encourages creativity and self-discovery. “Find your tribe, find your spark,” is peppered throughout the event website.

The 2018 edition of SPARKcon kicks off Thursday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. with comedy, burlesque and erotic poetry at the Kings/Neptunes Parlour complex. Opening night is scheduled to run until until midnight.

Friday and Saturday events last from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and then Sunday is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Programming highlights include music, fashion, yoga, street-painting, visual art, vendors, CircusSPARK and a “pun-off.”

Brandon Cordrey, head of SPARKcon producer Visual Art Exchange, says to be on the lookout for dinosaurs and unicorns.

“There is a concentration of circus people with T. Rex and unicorn outfits,” said Cordrey. “So a bunch of people will be running around City Plaza in costume, including yours truly. I own an 8-foot-tall inflatable unicorn costume, because I would not be right for this job if I didn’t.”

That should peak during the CircusSPARK Fire Spinners Show Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at City Plaza. For further lineup details, check the overall schedule at

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