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Jazzed Up in Delray

While it lacks the grandeur of Mardi Gras and the drunken, flesh-baring revelers of the French Quarter, downtown Delray Beach does offer a chance to get a taste of New Orleans with a side dish of art appreciation during "Art & Jazz on the Avenue."

The family-oriented music and art event, which has become a Delray tradition, takes place four times a year. Motor traffic closes down along the main downtown drag, turning East Atlantic Avenue into a five-block pedestrian area complete with vendor booths, food and beverage concession stands, and plenty of cops and barricades.

And if you're not a jazz fan, don't let that stop you: Although most musicians tote saxophones and bass guitars and deliver the real thing, some have been known in past years to unashamedly stretch the term jazz to include swing, rock, rhythm and blues, bluegrass, even oldies. This week features the New Orleans jump blues of Stan Street, for example.

As for the art part of the festivities, visitors can take a short detour through the new Pineapple Grove ArtWalk and view outdoor sculptures, gallery art exhibits, and photography and digital imaging at the Palm Beach Photographic Center's Fotofusion 2002 exhibits. The ArtWalk will also feature an unusual artwork by Wendy Wischer made of light that will be projected from the second floor and appear as a constellation in the sky.

If you want to take some of this culture home with you, you're in luck: Many of the small, unique shops downtown remain open all evening and some offer special deals and open-house promotions during the event.

For the first time, the goings-on will spill over onto West Atlantic Avenue to celebrate the completion of the West Atlantic streetscape project. The event will also include kids activities and entertainment, as well as a vintage-car show by the Customs and Rods Classic Car Club Owners featuring cars from the '60s and '70s.

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Sar Perlman

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