By LOIS KINDLE
Thousands of folks who love all things art will descend on E. G. Simmons Park March 11-12 for the 25th annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts. It’s the largest juried fine arts and crafts show in South Shore.
This year’s silver anniversary event will feature over 100 artists and artisans, and more than half are new.
As always, there will be lots of live entertainment, food, arts activities for the kids and more.
“This festival is unique because there is something for everyone,” said Melanie Rimes, executive director of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce, which partners with the SouthShore Arts Council to present the annual event. “It involves much more than the arts community and member businesses. There are activities for people of all ages and interests.”
Rimes said over most of its history, the festival was planned and executed by chamber staff members and volunteers only.
“We now partner with the SouthShore Arts Council and the Firehouse Cultural Center to take the lead on the arts part of the festival. The chamber does the rest.
“We’re used to planning events, but our area of expertise isn’t art,” she added. “The partnership is a perfect fit.”
The festival’s juried art show will include paintings, mixed media, glassware, photography, fiber art, jewelry, ceramics and much more. Almost $14,000 in cash prizes will be awarded in numerous categories, including Best of Show.
The festival will feature a wide variety of continuous entertainment, starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and 12:45 p.m. Sunday. The aim is to appeal to the widest audience possible.
“This year we’re going to showcase different types of art forms on stage,” Rimes said. “We’re including a diverse musical lineup featuring Emily Joy, the Rumba Brothers, Pinpoint, Victoria Ginty & Ladyhawke and the Damon Fowler Band; demonstrations by the Tampa Bay Martial Arts Academy; and dance performances by Armetta’s Gran Jete Dance Studio. Singers and a pianist from Opera Tampa will sing both opera and Broadway. We’re very excited to ‘mix up the arts’ for our visitors.”
Sponsored by the Firehouse Cultural Center, the Kids’ Firehouse Art Station will offer plenty of hands-on, arts-related activities for children of all ages. These will include creating fish prints, sandcastle sculptures, suncatchers, sun print photos, design boards and participating in a manatee drawing easel circle. Jumbo the Pirate will be on hand with his popular face painting and balloon art. And personnel from the Ruskin Library will tell stories at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days.
“We’re delighted to have more room and an expanded program this year to offer opportunities for kids from preschool to high school to have a great time while learning,” said Georgia Vahue, Firehouse Cultural Center executive director. “(The station) will be open all day, and everything is free.”
There will be plenty of options for those who come hungry. Buttman BBQ, the Mullet Shack, Firehouse Crabballs, C & J Specialty and other vendors will serve up everything from fried green tomatoes, barbecue, burgers and mullet to crab cakes, sausages, rum cakes, kettle corn and ice cream.
Event sponsors include Mosaic, TECO, the Tampa Bay Times and Pepin Distributing; Zipperer’s Funeral Home, Hillsborough Community College-SouthShore, South Bay Hospital and Tampa Crosstie & Landscape; Legal Shred, the Krewe of the South Shore Marauders, Stream, Firehouse Cultural Center and Artful Conceptions.
E.G. Simmons Park is at 2401 19th Ave. NW, Ruskin. To get there from U.S. 41, drive west to the end of 19th Avenue, turn right and follow the signs. Parking is free, and there’s a complimentary shuttle to the gate.
Festival admission is $5; children 12 and younger are free. Hillsborough County charges a $2 per carload park entry fee.
For more information, call 813-645-1366, or visit www.southshorechamberofcommerce.org.