Tonight, Annette Adams and a handful of her friends will step into the street in the Olde Village, clap in time and begin to shimmy. They won't be alone out there.

Several hundred people are expected to take part in the street dance that is one of highlights of the North Charleston Arts Festival. The festival is fast becoming a defining Lowcountry event -- a rotating tray of performance and exhibition arts that offers everything from bluegrass to theatrical ballet, samples national acts alongside local raves and young people's artistry. And a lot of it is free.

The festival's art walk Wednesday night featured street performers, stage bands, a film screening and street theater snippets of Theatre/verv/'s "Taming of the Shrew."

The Grand Finale on Saturday will be a three-hour extravaganza at Riverfront Park featuring Grammy award-winning jazz drummer Yonrico Scott; a hip-hop workshop and performance by praise music artists ViZion Dynamic Dance Ministries; and a sky full of fireworks over the Cooper River.

Sponsored by the city of North Charleston, the nine-day festival draws an estimated 30,000 people each year.

"It's upbeat, totally," said Ann Simmons, city arts coordinator. "I think people are just glad there's free stuff going on, and we have a lot of diversity in exhibits and performances."

Adams, of Hanahan, wouldn't miss getting out on East Montague Avenue for the Carousels' beach music and Reggae Infinity. Her line-dancing buddies even have a few reggae steps in them, she said.

"You don't need a partner. You've got a whole street to dance in. It's out in the open and spectators join in, especially the kids," she said. "You just get happy."

If you go

The North Charleston Arts Festival continues through Saturday. Here is a list of today's

events:

OLDE VILLAGE STREET DANCE: Carousels, Olde North Charleston Business District, E. Montague Ave. 6:30-8 p.m. Free. The four members of The Carousels have been playing music up and down the East Coast for more than 30 years, sharing the stage with such legends as Percy Sledge, The Platters and the late Joe Pope of The Tams. Bring a chair, or your dancing shoes.

REGGAE STREET DANCE: Inner Visions, Olde North Charleston Business District, E. Montague Avenue. 8:30-10 p.m. Free. International roots reggae recording artists, Inner Visions, provide a high-energy show featuring original, uplifting music suitable for all ages.

CONTRA DANCE: The Charleston Folk Club, Felix C. Davis Community Center, 4800 Park Circle. 7-11 p.m. Free. Learn the basics of this 17th century English country dance during an instructional session, 7-7:30 p.m. Charles Harvey will then guide new and experienced dancers alike through a variety of dances to live music by Crosstown Traffic.

HISPANIC COMMUNITY EVENT: New Covenant Church of God, 2801 Ashley Phosphate Road. 7-9 p.m. Free. Dance performance by Ministerio de Danza Ciudad de Paz, comedy, songs, contests, and games with El Payaso Estrella, a salsa exhibition by the Latin Groove Dance Kids, and music spun by DJ Luigi of Latin Groove.

THEATRICAL BALLET PERFORMANCE: Decadent Divas, performed by Charleston Ballet Theatre. North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive, 7:30 p.m. $35 and up. Visit ticketmaster.com or call CBT Box office at 723-7334 ·

THEATRE PRESENTATION: 'Small Fishes in a Big Pond' presented by Pumpkin Hill Entertainment, Sterett Hall Auditorium, 1530 7th St. 7:30 p.m. $15 general, $10 student/senior in Advance; $20/$15 at door. Call 843-882-7434 for ticket information.

THEATRE PRESENTATION: 'The Taming of the Shrew,' presented by Theatre /verv/, South of Broadway Theater, 1080 E. Montague Ave., 8:30 p.m. $15 general, $10 students. Tickets at theatreverv.org.

Friday's

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or bpetersen@postandcourier.com.