By Larry Barszewski
Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and more than 500 art and craft exhibitors will combine for a traffic-stopping April weekend in downtown Delray Beach.
Gauff and Pegula, professional tennis players from Delray Beach and Boca Raton, respectively, will play in a major tournament at the Delray Beach Tennis Center at the same time that artists and craftspeople will fill Atlantic Avenue from in front of the tennis center through to Federal Highway as part of this year’s Delray Affair.
If you’re not planning to attend the 61st annual art festival, which will shut down eight blocks of Atlantic Avenue, or the Billie Jean King Cup qualifier tournament that will pack thousands into the tennis center, then it might be best to just avoid the area.
The tournament is Friday and Saturday, April 14-15, and the Delray Affair will be up-and-running April 14 to 16. Affair officials anticipate about 110,000 people coming out during the three-day festival, while the tennis center has a capacity exceeding 8,000 available for the tournament.
If you do plan to attend either event, organizers suggest you save yourself a headache and park at the Tri-Rail station and Palm Beach County Administrative Complex at 345 S. Congress Ave., then take a free shuttle bus into downtown. The shuttles will run regularly throughout the weekend, dropping people off at the police station just west of the events or at the tennis center.
The tennis tournament is tentatively scheduled to start at noon on Friday and Saturday. The Delray Affair is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on those days and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The shuttles run from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, accommodating people who might want to spend more time at downtown restaurants and enjoy the nightlife, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
There’s no similar shuttle service on the east side of the festival, officials said.
Despite the added crowds coming for the tennis tournament, the Delray Affair isn’t flustered.
“We aren’t concerned about the tournament impacting the Delray Affair. I think both events will benefit from potential additional attendees,” said Nancy Stewart-Franczak of Festival Management Group, which is handling publicity for the Delray Affair.
The good news for barrier island residents is that the Atlantic Avenue bridge will be operating under normal conditions throughout the weekend, even though most of Atlantic Avenue will be closed in the downtown area from 2 a.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday. Still, if you’re not going to one of the events, organizers suggest people coming from the barrier island use either the George Bush Boulevard bridge or Linton Boulevard bridge instead.
Parking garages at the South County Courthouse and next to Old School Square will be open, with Boy Scouts on hand to collect a $5 parking fee that will go to support their activities.
A valet parking service will be available at Delray Beach City Hall on a first-come first-served basis.
Some potential parking places on the Delray Affair’s east side are at the Village Lot at 50 SE Sixth Ave., the Gladiola Lot at 51 SE Sixth Ave., and the 4th & 5th Delray Garage at 25 SE Fourth Ave.
The Delray Affair will fill up Atlantic Avenue from Southwest Second Avenue, in front of the tennis center, to Northeast Sixth Avenue.
Although you won’t be able to drive across Atlantic Avenue at Swinton, Northeast Second Avenue or Northeast Fourth Avenue, traffic will be flowing over it on northbound and southbound Federal Highway.