SPARKcon brings a little bit of everything to downtown Raleigh

CorrespondentSeptember 12, 2013 

  • Details

    What: SparkCon

    When: Thursday morning through Sunday afternoon

    Where: Along Fayetteville Street (and in surrounding venues), downtown Raleigh

    Cost: Free

    Info: Maps and schedules at

  • Don’t miss these SPARKS

    • MusicSPARK’s Main Event features American Manna, Rebekah Todd, Bob Funck Band and Once and Future Kings. 9 p.m. Friday at Kings Barcade (

    • The Digital Motion Showcase by GeekSPARK provides a different sensory experience in each room. Lasers! Every night from 6 p.m. at the Contemporary Art Museum (

    • TheatreSPARK samples current regional theater, including musical numbers. 2:15 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage (on Fayetteville Street at City Plaza).

    • FashionSPARK’s Runway Fashion Show is one of the most popular fashion events in the Triangle. It happens at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage.

    • The Fire Show by CircusSPARK is an ode to Madonna this year. A Parkour pre-show starts 15 minutes beforehand. 9 p.m. Saturday, Fayetteville Street at Martin Street.

Visitors to downtown Raleigh can expect some most spectacular interactive events this weekend: over 200 unique shows, acts and exhibits – including art, music, dance, comedy, fashion and much more – that make up the eighth annual SPARKcon.

What exactly is SPARKcon?

Aly Khalifa, one of the founders, described SPARKcon as an artistic body composed of individual cells.

“There’s IdeaSPARK, PoetrySPARK, FashionSPARK...” he said. “Within each cell, a group of volunteers create events, and there’s no limit to the number. There are over 2,000 people displaying their talents this year.”

Big and free

All SPARKcon events are free and unticketed.

“We think it’s the biggest event of its kind,” Khalifa boasted. “It’s open source, so it’s for anyone who wants to tap into the creative community. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen at these events.”

SPARKcon is always a surprise. Some attendees perform in flash mobs. They paint on the streets and wear costumes.

Craig Rudewicz’s costume this year will be a 22-foot-long wire and paper maché sandworm from the movie “Beetlejuice.”

“I’m running FilmSPARK,” Rudewicz said. “We wanted to do something to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘Beetlejuice.’ What’s better than a sandworm?”

Some of the SPARKS

MusicSPARK spotlights local bands. Expect both up-and-coming artists and more established names. For the second year, the “Young Guns” category will present 12 acts by talented local musicians under 21 years old.

Something new this year is SwearSPARK, a collaboration between ComedySPARK and TheatreSPARK.

“For this one, ComedySPARK and TheatreSPARK members are getting together to act out 32 swearwords, and the audience will vote on their favorites,” said Rudewicz. “We thought there should be at least one drinking SPARK event, so this is it.”

If swear words aren’t your thing, ComedySPARK is also doing a clean stand-up show on the R-Line bus from 4 to 6 Saturday.

There’s also a BazaarSPARK on Friday afternoon, where artisans line up to sell their wares, and bright street paintings start to appear as Fayetteville Street closes to traffic.

And don’t forget FilmSPARK, which showcases movies, especially those by local artists.

Connect the SPARKS

The ultimate goals of SPARKcon, according to Khalif, are to connect local people with the artistic communities they seek and to showcase Raleigh in the world of art.

“Basically, it’s a skill-share,” said Khalif. “Our vision is not to tell people what the creative process is but to have a platform for artists to demonstrate leadership. CircusSPARK, for example, started with one kids’ clowning event during DanceSPARK, and someone decided to expand it. Now there’s aerial dancing, juggling workshops, a fire show – it’s one of the most popular SPARKS.”

The SPARKcon participants often stay involved from year to year.

“One year someone might be a model for FashionSPARK, and the next, a fashion designer,” Khalif said. “They come back later as a SPARK organizer. I’ve seen artists’ careers take off, and that’s exciting!”

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