Photos courtesy of the Kaufman Arts District

Take a journey through Astoria’s one-of-a-kind arts district during a free event this weekend.

On Sept. 21, the Kaufman Arts District will open its gates to the public for the Backlot Festival. Starting at 2 p.m., festival guests can explore not just through the gated section, but the entire district through unique, fun activities.

The event is free to the public.

“The Kaufman Arts District street with the big gate is like Willy Wonka’s factory: you see people go in and out, but there’s a magical world behind the gate that shows the uniqueness of the street and the neighborhood,” said Jamie Hook, executive director of the Kaufman Arts District. “We want to give the community a chance to get to know them and play on their own stage.”

The event will kick off with an opening ceremony at 2:30 p.m. led by Astoria’s own Fogo Azul, a 50-woman samba drumline. The drummers will take to the district’s catwalk to start off the festivities. Guests can enjoy a number of events throughout the afternoon, including Live Ice Sculpting from the city’s largest ice sculptor, Okamoto Studio, a Japanese Gypsy rock show from Kaz & Sakai, a Sesame Street workshop with the show’s creative director of character design Louis Henry Mitchell and so much more.

The event will also feature performances from talented musicians such as Alvaro Benavides and Skins N Strings over at the Latin stage, plus a workshop from the city’s only ukulele-only studio, The Uke Hut. At the literature stage, guests can enjoy readings by Voices of Fortune, a group led by the Fortune Society to help incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter society by teaching them to write.

One of the festival’s highlights includes the Queens Mutt Show. Co-presented by Chateau Le Woof, the show seeks to crown the Best Mutt in Queens, and the winner will hold on to the trophy until next year’s show. All proceeds from the mutt show will go to support Animal Cares Centers for New York.

The Mutt Show will begin at 4 p.m. All dogs are eligible to compete, regardless of their pedigree, however participants must register their dog before the festival begins. If you’d like your dog to compete, register them backlotfestival.nyc.

The festival will close with a one-of-a-kind fashion show led by Tableaux Vivants. The re-imagined fashion show will highlight costumed performers in various surreal situations using costumes on loan from the TDF Costume Collection.

“This specific community deserves and needs a free event, and what we’re trying to create here is a space where the community truly can see itself,”  said Hook. “I’m honored and grateful to be a part of producing the festival.”

For more information and a full lineup of event activities, visit backlotfestival.nyc.

Alexis Karl, Rebecca Goyette, Raxann Chin, Jodie Lyn-Kee-Chow, who will lead the closing ceremony fashion show.

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