The 12th annual Utah Arts Festival, featuring artists and performers from Utah and around the country, opened Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

Amid hundreds of high-flying kites made by elementary schoolchildren and multicolored banners, gates to the festival opened at noon at the Triad Center.Official opening ceremonies, including welcomes from Lt. Gov. Val Oveson, Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis and Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart, will be held at 7:30 p.m. on the Triad Amphitheater stage.

A Ballet West performance of excerpts from "Giselle," "Anna Karenina" and "Gershwin, by George!" will follow.

The festival, which continues through Sunday, is "sort of the harbinger of summertime. We invite people from all economic and social backgrounds to come down and enjoy the arts," said Linda Bonar, festival executive director.

Last year some 89,000 people attended the festival, and attendance is expected to be larger this year.

The thermometer soared to 97 degrees Tuesday in the Salt Lake area and is expected to remain in the high 90s during the remainder of the week. But plenty of shade and cooling drinks are available for festival crowds, officials say.

With the theme, "Fine Art, Serious Fun," this year's festival offers an exciting lineup of performing artists, 80 visual artists' booths, a labyrinth of fun in the children's art yard and 21 food artists cooking up tasty treats to tempt your appetite.

The festival will "emphasize more of the fine arts, making a point of letting people know that we are very serious about the art we produce and that a part of the seriousness is making it fun for everybody. The festival will include outstanding artists and crafts we've always had, but it will also showcase some of the fine arts," said Jamie Leigh-Galli of the festival staff.

Fifty to 60 pieces of art from the state of Utah's fine arts collection will be displayed for the first time at the festival. This particular display, free to the public, will be held in the restored Union Pacific Depot, located across from the festival grounds on Fourth West.

Leigh-Galli said the exhibition is being held to give Utahns an opportunity to better appreciate the talents of artists.

"The art belongs to the people of Utah and it is rare for them to be placed in a gallery. Usually, they are in government buildings. It's a chance for citizens to see a larger group of paintings in one spot," he said.

The exhibition marks the beginning of a projected series of fine art exhibitions to be held during future festivals, Bonar said.

The 1988 festival offers a full lineup of performing artists, including the Utah Symphony, Los Angeles composer Daniel Lentz and group, the innovative Elisa Monte Dance Company, jazz fusion group the Rippingtons with Russ Freeman, and special guest Brandon Fields and the dynamic sounds of Fattburger.

Also featured will be a Company of Four, James Scott, Chris Proctor and the Tempo Timers.