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I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival

If you pass by the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara and see people kneeling, chances are, they’re not praying; they are hard at work, chalking masterpieces for this year’s I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, which kicks off Saturday, May 27.

The popular, annual event showcases up to 150 colorful, large-scale, hand-made pastel chalk drawings.

Santa Barbara borrowed the idea from its sister festival in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy, years ago. The elaborate artwork will remain until the next heavy rain — that could be weeks if not months.

The festival, which is sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office, is free and fun for the entire family and tourists alike, and draws hundreds of people to the historic landmark each day.

I Madonnari kicks off Saturday and runs through Memorial Day Monday.

Proceeds from participating food booths benefit the Children’s Creative Project, which serves 50-thousand children in more than 100 schools with visual and performing arts workshops and performances throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

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