Meet the Folks Behind Your Favorite Festivals

From a small office in Jupiter, Howard and Debbie Alan manage some of South Florida's most esteemed art festivals

Debbie and Howard Alan with their dog, Max, outside their home. Photo by Jason Nuttle
Debbie and Howard Alan with their dog, Max, outside their home. Photo by Jason Nuttle

It all began with a gorilla. After leaving a career in chiropractic medicine, Howard Alan opened the retail store Rainbow’s End in 1982 in Plantation, featuring the works of artists and crafters on consignment. When the store struggled to make ends meet, Howard attracted patrons by placing a 6-foot mechanical gorilla named Magilla on the street with a sign claiming Magilla was running for mayor. The stunt made national headlines and, although it resulted in Howard being arrested for having “something illegal on the street,” it made him realize he had a talent for public relations. He combined PR with his passion for the arts and launched Howard Alan Events & American Craft Endeavors in 1985, specializing in art show promotions.

Based in Jupiter, the enterprise has since been the force behind 45 annual juried art shows and 40 annual craft shows across South Florida and the nation. For the past 35 years, Howard and his team have run festivals including ArtFest by the Sea in Juno Beach, the Downtown Stuart Art Festival, and Boca Raton’s Boca Fest. “The first one we started, in October 1987, was on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach,” says Howard’s wife and business partner, Debbie. “We managed to bring out 40,000 people to that festival. Now we have major shows around the country, especially in South Florida.”

The size and scale of the events have only increased since then. More than 10,000 artists have exhibited their work through Howard Alan Events. The sheer size of the shows calls for miles-long road closures, with white tents lining the streets filled with the work of global artists. “We created a niche,” says Howard. “If you go to one of our shows, not only do you get to see the art, but you also get to meet the person who created it. You get to find out what inspired them to create their masterpiece and what kinds of materials they used.”

Howard and Debbie have been running South Florida’s top art fairs for more than 35 years. Photo by Jason Nuttle
Howard and Debbie have been running South Florida’s top art fairs for more than 35 years. Photo by Jason Nuttle

Having the opportunity to interact with artists is something the couple discovered is important to locals and what sets their events apart from other art shows. “The people in Florida, especially those moving from the Northeast, are very arts-minded,” says Howard. “The kids even ask intelligent questions about how the artwork is made. People of all ages love our shows.”

Featured artists are selected by a jury each year, many of whom have showcased their work in the past. South Florida art collectors return yearly in search of more art from artists they have bought from previously. “A lot of artists will do 30 shows a year with us,” says Debbie. “They trust and respect us and appreciate our opinions on how to upgrade their displays and keep everything fresh. The artists have become part of our family.”

It’s that attention to detail that festivalgoers have come to expect from Howard Alan Events. “Our shows are a little different than anything else out there,” says Howard. “If you come to one of our events, you’re going to see some of the top exhibitors in the country and artwork you haven’t seen before. We have a reputation, and our credibility is very important. We create the best-looking shows possible.”

Out of all the South Florida events Howard and Debbie plan out, they say Juno Beach’s ArtFest by the Sea—which returns March 11-12 this year for its thirty- third show—has become a favorite. “We live in Jupiter and call it the show that’s in our backyard,” says Howard. “Where else do you get a venue that is the A1A? It’s beautiful.”

Mark Your Calendar!

Don’t miss these exciting Howard Alan Events art shows in 2023

January 7-8: Las Olas Art Fair Part I

East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, free

January 14-15: Downtown Delray Beach Festival of the Arts

East Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, free

January 21-22: Boca Fest

Town Center at Boca Raton, Boca Raton, free

February 4-5: Hobe Sound Festival of the Arts

11954 SE Dixie Hwy., Hobe Sound, free

February 18-19: Downtown Delray Beach Craft Festival

330 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, free

February 25-26: Downtown Stuart Art Festival

26 SW Osceola St., Stuart, free

March 4-5: Las Olas Art Fair Part II

East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; free

March 11-12: ArtFest by the Sea at Juno Beach

14200 U.S. Hwy. 1, Juno Beach, free

March 18-19: Coral Springs Festival of the Arts

2874 N. University Drive, Coral Springs, free

March 25-26: Downtown Stuart Craft Festival

26 SW Osceola St., Stuart, free

March 25-26: The Boca National Art Fair at Boca Center

5150 Town Center Circle, Boca Raton, free

April 1-2: Downtown West Palm Beach Art Festival

700 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach, free

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