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Rampin’ up the music at the annual arts fest!

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image Diana Dayer of Apollo Beach painted the winning design used for this year's Manatee Arts Festival. Photo Penny Fletcher

The 21st Annual Manatee Arts Festival comes to town this weekend.


A whole new atmosphere is being created this year for art lovers, and it’s geared to help local business too.

What could business, art and atmosphere possibly have in common?

The 21st Annual Manatee Arts Festival.

Approximately 90 juried fine artists and craftsmen from across the country will be demonstrating, showing, and selling their work Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tampa Electric Company South Shore Community Center on the corner of Dickman and Noonan Branch roads. This intersection is just south of the Manatee Viewing Center which is at the west end of Big Bend Road.

“We’ve changed things up a little this year,” said Greg Conley, this year’s co-chairman of the event along with South Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Melanie Morrison. “We wanted to add more music as a background for people enjoying the art work and also those relaxing in the beer and wine garden. But we knew we had to do it in a way that wouldn’t detract from the art, or the artists, because that’s the main focus of  the festival.”

The festival committee decided to have a whole day of music both Saturday and Sunday, starting in the mornings with talent from local schools and working up to professionals later in the day.

But the committee wasn’t sure how to present all this musical talent without encroaching on the main event, which is always the showing and judging of art.

“So we hired a production company to see that the sound is just right at all times,” said Conley. “And we’re placing the beer and wine garden near the music. We know some people may want to come out just for that.”

There will be no loud or jarring music, or even rock n’ roll; just jazz and easy listening featuring both local talent and professional bands, Conley said.

The art will be judged late Saturday afternoon so the ribbons for winners can be seen in the booths all day Sunday.

“That way the public can see who has won the technical awards and Best of Show,” he added.

One winner has already been chosen. Diana Dayer of Apollo Beach designed this year’s logo which appears on the brochures and official festival T-shirt.Diana Dayer, artist.

Dayer, who grew up in Minnesota, and her husband Richard and family, moved to Florida in 1981 from Ohio. They have lived in Apollo Beach for 10 years.

A stylist at Victoria’s 5th Avenue Salon, Dayer, now 50, said she only started painting in 2007.

“I was watching some kind of class project on television, and I thought, ‘I could do that,’ so I got some paints.”

She describes herself as a “self-taught artist who just paints for fun.”

The winning festival painting was done in acrylics and shows three manatees in different poses.

“This will be the first year there will not be a culinary competition. The committee decided that was really a lot of work for the amount of people it drew to the festival,” Conley said. “We thought if we concentrated more on music, it would be a draw to more people and be a nice background for those coming for the art.”

One thing that will stay the same as in other years is fun for children.

This year’s sponsor of the Children’s Creativity Center is Ruskin’s Firehouse Cultural Center, said Nina Tatlock, who is head of the committee for that event.

“We’re having a ‘fish rubbing’ using rubber sea creatures and rice paper, a drawing table, and making collages and firehouse hats,” Tatlock said.  

There will also be a story table with poems and books for inspiration to write a story or draw pictures, she added.

Non-profit organizations, especially those like Florida Fish and Wildlife that work with the environment will be on hand to educate people about native Florida wildlife, proper boating skills, and plants and other environmental issues.

A wide variety of food and beverage vendors will be available including a wine and beer garden in which adults may sit and relax. 

There will be free shuttle service to the Manatee Viewing Center where people can observe and learn about manatees.

This year an added feature will be a separate area where a few businesses belonging to the chamber of commerce will be permitted to set up tables. The festival is the main annual fundraiser for the chamber.

“Every year the chamber tries to think up new ways to be of service to its member businesses,” Conley said. “We don’t want it to look like a business event, because this is really all about the art. But we decided this year to have a section off to the side where some members can talk with people who wish to stop by.”

Tickets are $5 for adults and all children 12 and younger who are accompanied by an adult are admitted free.

For more information, visit the South Shore chamber’s website at http://southshorechamberofcommerce.org/ and click on “Manatee Festival” on the left side where events are listed in a continuously rolling calendar.

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