ORLANDO — Numbers, George Wallace noted, have a great deal of significance.
After all, he noted, the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival is this year offering not only more than 130 productions on numerous stages across the city, but also a food and wine area on the grass at Loch Haven Park.
“We have 15,000 feet of fencing that it takes out on that lawn,” said Wallace, the executive director of the festival.
Just as impressive, noted City Commissioner Robert Stuart, is the fact that Fringe needed 13,000 beer cups for the event that runs from May 18 to Memorial Day.
“What makes this great is that its an example of what our community can become,” Stuart said.
But one number in particular takes on greater significance, Wallace noted, and that’s 25.
“The most important number is 25,” Wallace said. “Twenty-five years.”
On Wednesday, Wallace and Stuart joined a crowd of Fringe patrons, actors and artists inside the auditorium of the Orlando Museum of Art for a ribbon cutting ceremony to launch the 25th annual Orlando Fringe — the oldest Fringe festival in the nation.
“It is indicative of what this group has accomplished over 25 years,” said Stuart, whose commission district includes Loch Haven Park. “You don’t keep sponsors unless you’re doing it right.”
As the festival has grown over the years, Wallace noted, so have their list of sponsors.
“We have a lot of sponsors this year,” he said. “We are grassroots, and many of these organizations are grassroots and small businesses.”
As the festival has grown, they have also expanded what they offer, noted Michael Marinaccio, the producer of the Orlando Fringe Festival.
“I can’t even tell you how excited I am this year,” he said. “We tried to make the festival bigger and better this year without forgetting what is important, which is the people involved.”
This year, the Fringe continued to expand to new venues beyond the stages at Loch Haven Park in the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, the Orlando Repertory Theater and the Orlando Museum of Art. A new addition this year is the Footlight Theater at the Parliament House resort on Orange Blossom Trail.
“You can park off site and take a shuttle bus this year,” Wallace said.
Another new addition, he added, is a Fringe app that patrons and artists can download — a kind of How-To-Fringe guide.
“We have just over 800 downloads with our app,” Wallace said. “You can schedule your shows, you can rate shows. It’s going to be the hit of the festival.”
Stuart and Commissioner Patty Sheehan read a proclamation from the city honoring the event.
“We declare Fringe Week for two weeks,” Stuart said. “Congratulations, everyone, and congratulations, Michael, for what you’ve done.”
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..