In some ways, the battle has been won. Raleigh is undoubtedly more vibrant and inviting since SPARKcon began in 2006: Fayetteville Street Mall opened to auto traffic; the Red Hat Amphitheatre, Convention Center and Shimmer Wall were constructed; CAM Raleigh launched at long last; numerous new craft breweries and music halls opened. Red Hat, Citrix and other companies have relocated workers to the urban core.
But that's no reason to call off the party. This year's SPARKcon looks to resemble last year's, with festivity-sparks related to comedy, theater, music, dance, film and many more. Among the showcase highlights: Friday night sees circusSPARK take place at City Plaza 8–9 p.m., and the ever-popular fashionSPARK runway show takes over in the same place Saturday 8–9:30 p.m.
Elsewhere, there will be 250 street painting squares, 25 dance companies, 50 vendors and 55 bands. And one "Chinese dragon-style worm." —David Fellerath