By LOIS KINDLE
The Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts has showcased the work of fine artists and craftsmen from throughout the country since 1992.
This year’s 26th annual event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 10 and 11 at E. G. Simmons Regional Park in Ruskin. About 10,000 visitors are expected.
In recent years, as the Firehouse Cultural Center, South Shore Arts Council and area public schools have created more opportunities for residents to engage in the creative process, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce has expanded the festival’s offerings to reflect this growing interest in all forms of art.
For example, this year’s lineup of live musical entertainment is more diverse then ever, said Melanie Rimes, the chamber’s executive director.
It’ll include rhythm and blues, country, jazz, island, southern rock and Americana performed by artists Matt Billor, Harrison Jazz, Dark Horse, Kosmic Pearl and the Damon Fowler Band on Saturday and John Puckett, the Hummingbirds, Willow Hill and the Selwyn Birch Band on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Martial Arts Academy will present demonstrations on Sunday from 1 to 1:30 p.m., followed by Armetta’s Grand Jete Studio of Dance from 3 to 3:30.
The Kids Firehouse Art Station will include a children’s art activity tent “that looks like a huge sandcastle,” said Georgia Vahue, executive director of the Firehouse Cultural Center. It will offer a variety of free, staff- and volunteer-guided sun, beach- and ocean-themed activities for kids of all ages, including sand art in a bottle; fish painting with watercolors; solar photo prints; printmaking with shells; and more.
“We want our activities to be fun, totally creative and carry out the theme of South Shore’s beaches,” Vahue said.
As always, the festival’s main draw is southern Hillsborough County’s largest juried fine arts and crafts show of more than 100 participants who will exhibit and sell their paintings, works of metal and wood, fiber art, sculpture, mixed media, photography and other fine art forms.
A committee of the South Shore Arts Council reviewed all the applications and photos submitted online by those wanting to show their work, said Nina Tatlock, arts council board officer.
“We looked for good execution of the art, craftsmanship and originality, and we strived to include a variety of art forms,” she said.
A panel of judges selected by the arts council will make the following awards: Best of Show, $2,000; Award of Excellence, $1,200; Award of Distinction, $700; Award of Merit, $500; Award of Honor, $300; Dean Tea Memorial Award, $200; and the Manatee Art Award, $100. Approximately $5,000 will also be awarded in patron purchase awards, Tatlock said.
Commercial exhibitors will include The Vibe, Salty Scales, Emmy & J Gourmet, H&R Block, Burn Boot Camp – South Shore, Costco, Greek Products and All American Gutter Protection. Nonprofit organizations like the Save the Manatee Club, Tampa Bay Greyhound Adoption, The Crossing Church, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society also will be on hand.
Food, beverages, beer and wine will be sold. The vendors include Bear Cakes, C&J Specialty, Buttman BBQ, Firehouse Crabballs, Poppin Don’s and more. An ATM will be on-site.
E.G. Simmons Regional Park is at 2401 19th Ave. N.W., Ruskin. From U.S. 41, drive west to the end of 19th Avenue Northwest and turn right. Free parking and a shuttle to the festival grounds are available.
Major sponsors of the 26th annual Manatee Festival of the Arts include: Mosaic; Pepin Distributing; TECO; Tampa Bay Times; Firehouse Cultural Center; Accurate Air; and the South Shore Arts Council. Others include Legal Shred, South Bay Hospital and the Krewe of the South Shore Marauders.
Admission is $5; children younger than 12 and veterans or active military with proper IDs get in free. Hillsborough County charges a $2 per carload entry fee to the park. To expedite entry, it’s highly suggested visitors have the cash ready for rangers to collect at the gate.
“Come out and be part of the excitement,” Rimes said. “You never know what beautiful piece of art is waiting to complement the perfect spot in your home.
“The festival is the perfect place to introduce your children to the arts and to their own creativity. Come enjoy the weather, the venue, the music and the company of others. What a wonderful way to be part of and celebrate this wonderful community we call South Shore!”
For more information, visit www.southshorechamberofcommerce.org or call 813-645-1366.