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VIP Lounge & Mexican Restaurant – Treasure Island

Popular Gem Tucked Away

If you are new to the area, here’s what you need to know about VIP:

  • The food and atmosphere are addicting (watch out, waistline)
  • It has a cult-like following (do they put something in the food so I can’t stop?)
  • They don’t take reservations or call ahead orders (who wants to wait, right?)
  • It’s a TI landmark that is hard to find at night (maybe you shouldn’t be driving at night?)
  • VIP has an insane number of “regular” patrons (will there be any room for little ole’ me?)
  • Parking may be tricky. Free parking impossible really.  (I thought the best things in life were free?)
  • It’s small so best for smaller groups (But I want to go with all my Facebook friends?)

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Why You Should Go

However, if these things sound like reasons not to go, think again:

  • Tomorrow is always a great day to start a diet.
  • Yeah, they do put stuff in the food. Spices.  Peppers. Cheese. Tortillas.  It’s a restaurant, not a grocery store.
  • If you don’t want to wait go in the afternoon! You are on vacation so your day probably started late anyway.
  • I bet your Uber or Lyft driver can find it. Better yet, put the address in your GPS map app and then just stop your car in the middle of the road when she says you have arrived.  Take your time looking around while you hold up traffic. Its cool – everyone does it.
  • VIP is friendly but not clique-y. It isn’t high school all over.  You’ll be welcome.
  • Free parking? Even love isn’t free.  There are diamonds, Tinder subscriptions, diapers…
  • All 12 of your real Facebook friends will fit.  For those of you with thousands of Facebook friends, they’re probably already at VIP.  You don’t really know all those people anyway.

The chips are so good you don’t need the queso and guac, but get them anyway

Because VIP has been around since the 70’s, locals and visitors who have been coming here for years have grown with the restaurant. It’s a true Rapisardi family affair, and one that’s focused on making your experience here as memorable as possible.

Two words: The Three Amigos

The Food

So here’s one thing I always forget between visits to VIP: The food can be spicy.  Really spicy.  So much so that your beverage of choice will become your BFF.  And if that BFF involves a VIP margarita, you may need a “Lyft” or Uber home.  Even items that aren’t labeled spicy are spicy, so you know if they mark an item “Spicy” AND mark it “No Returns Please“, they mean it..

Can’t handle spice? Then ask your server about the menu item you’re considering or eat from the Gringo menu. Gringo food includes the mandatory chicken tenders loved by children everywhere, along with hot dogs and hamburgers.

VIP Enchiladas

Insider Tip: Better for small groups

It’s pretty small inside and very popular.  Even at off times you’ll have trouble seating a large party.

VIP Perfect Meal

I’ve heard the fajitas at VIP are phenomenal.  I’ve only smelled them, and always too late when I’ve already ordered. (If you’ve had them feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you thought.) Having lived much of my life in Texas, I have a thing about fajitas.  The best place in Austin for fajitas used to be the Hyatt Regency on Town Lake. And it was THE place for runners to go post Cap 10K.  Then Pappasito’s arrived on the scene, with garlic butter poured over tender, sizzling fajitas.  That’s the bar VIP fajitas have to beat.

I’ve also heard folks get quite emotional talking about their Wet Burrito.  It’s actually the Tinga Chicken tacos that make me cry.

If you could only feel the heat this dish packs

The Parking

So more about parking.  Because let’s face it, you’re at the beach so parking is limited to begin with.  But then you put it in a tiny little center next to Ricky T’s Bar & Grille and Sweet’s n’ Treats ice cream shop, and put it right on Gulf Blvd where Central Avenue comes over and you can imagine the difficulties.

Paradise parking has a large lot located behind VIP, where Park Place dead ends at 106th Ave.  It’s paid parking but unless you have a parking fairy on  your shoulder this will be your only shot.

However, if you park back in this lot and walk in through the back entrance (through the patio section), you’ll likely see cars parked 3 deep.  Don’t be tempted, dear tourist.  This is not for you.  This is for those locals I mentioned earlier that frequent VIP so often that other frequent patrons know who’s car is whose and therefore who they can park behind and block in. I only wish I could drink margaritas and eat Mexican food so often that I could be a regular there.

Anyway, walking in through this entrance also means you will walk through the kitchen to get to the dining area.

Chips up!

Insider Tip: One small bathroom

So maybe go before you go, if you know what I mean.  And don’t wait until the last minute.  It’s all nice and friendly until a line forms for the potty.

One word: Mango.  Your reward for a life lived well.

The Details

VIP Mexican American Cuisine  – 10625 Gulf Blvd, Treasure Island, Florida  727-360-5062.  Enhance your visit to the VIP by visiting their website, Facebook page and Trip Advisor!

Visit the news page of the website to find out about special events (Cinco De Mayo is one) and daily specials.

Website

Facebook page

Trip Advisor

New Restaurant – Mano’s Italian Grill

Is our pretty little town big enough for not one, but two fine Italian restaurants? Happily I think the answer is an enthusiastic YES! 

Those of you familiar with Gulfport know that we have been blessed to have Pia’s Trattoria in the heart of the Waterfront District for a long time now. Pia’s is a personal favorite of mine and is a linchpin in our 3-Day Dining Guide to Gulfport. 

However, early in 2019 I started hearing amazing feedback about an Italian newcomer on the scene, Mano’s Italian Grill & Pizza. I was finally able to give it a try last month.  It’s tough work trying out new restaurants, but someone’s gotta do it.

Aracini di Rosa – that’s fancy Italian for rice balls.  (I think!)

First, let me apologize for the photos. These are just the photos of the dishes we were able to photograph before attacking them.  We were seriously hungry, seriously excited to finally eat at Mano’s and seriously hoping to finish dinner before the thunderstorm moved in.  

Who am I fooling? Half the time when I go to try out a new restaurant specifically for the purpose of recommending it (or not), I actually forget to take photos before we dive in.  And if I do remember, I have to hurry under Terry’s glare while I stand between him and the food just placed in front of him.

To the point though, these rice balls were wonderful.  Definitely a must-try and not something I would normally order.

Terry chilling and waiting for the fun to begin. Mano’s patio is great for enjoying a quiet meal outdoors.

I should have led with a photo of the iced tea.  It’s that good.  Don’t add lemon.  No need to mess with perfection.

Let me close by saying I can’t believe I’m actually going to mention the iced tea.  Does anyone go to a restaurant, much less an Italian restaurant, because of the iced tea? Well we do now. Or we would.

If you’ve ever tried Republic teas in the bottles, you may have a sense of what I’m talking about here.  Republic teas are perfection in my view – clear, crisp, so ick or bite on the tongue.  Mano’s iced tea is that without the fancy flavorings. A home run. 

Mano’s Italian Grill & Pizza is now closed on Mondays for parties and special events.

Mano’s is located at 5802 28th Ave S, Gulfport, 33707.  They’re in the little shopping center that looks out over Wood Ibis Park.  Watch waterfowl frolic by day and the fountain light up by night.

manositaliangrill.com   

727-440-7176  

Open at 4 pm daily except Mondays.

Or check out their Facebook page for tons guest photos of dishes.

Beach Snoballs in St Pete Beach

Sugar And Soft Shaved Ice Fuse In Shivery, Sweet Awesomeness

Do you know anyone who doesn’t like shaved ice

Me neither. 

It just seems so indulgent. One, it’s sweet.  Two, it’s so cold.  Three, it’s so soft. Four, it just seems a little naughty.  (After all, didn’t your mother tell you not to eat snow? More than once?)

Well, hold on, because we’re about to take naughty to a whole new level.

It is a grave error to assume that shaved ice consumption requires hot weather.

Beach Snoballs in St Pete Beach is the purveyor of these delightful icy desserts they call Snoballs.    

Ever run out of syrup with a sno-cone? It’s just so sad! Hopeless even. That doesn’t happen with Snoballs. With finer ice than that found in Sno-cones, there’s no fighting between the syrup and the ice.  Ice and syrup are one.

Spike It!

You adults know what I’m talking about.  Add a little warmth to counteract all that coldness.

You can find Pina Colada, Margarita. Bahama Mama (my favorite) and more.  Or just add a shot to any flavor. Or two. Or three to any Snoball. Terry likes to go big on the Bahama Mana.

Have Fun Choosing

Add Some More Sugar!

Flavored syrups made with real sugar not enough carbs for you? It’s OK, we get it.

Then how about you add ice cream.  Yes, to your shaved ice.

Still not hitting the sugar receptors on all cylinders? You can add that food of the gods, Sweetened Condensed Milk.  Or Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Sauce or Whipped Cream.  

Experiment!

Ready for adventure?  No training wheels for you. You can build it yourself.  You pick a size, decide whether or not you want to add ice cream, choose up to three flavors and then select your toppings.

Do you find 60 flavor choices and over 25,000 combinations a bit, err, overwhelming after a simple day at the beach? Not to worry.

You can let someone else do the heavy-lifting and try one of the Signature or Specialty snoballs.  These include such creations as Salted Caramel Deluxe, German Chocolate and a Tangerine Dream.

The menu includes little icons to let you know which combos are their best sellers.

Pure and simple Bahama Mama! Watch the video and keep an eye on the spoon in the video below

Locally owned by just the nicest people (a mother daughter team), you won’t be disappointed.  Unless they’re closed.

Visit them at 7350 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach. Weekdays from 2 pm to 10 pm and weekends from noon to 10 pm.

Note to you old-timers.  Beach Snoballs used to be located on Treasure Island where Middle Grounds Cafe is.

Where to Buy Fresh Seafood – Gulfport, Treasure Island & St Petersburg

When Freshness Really Counts

As any chef or good cook will tell you, one of the keys to cooking success is to start with the freshest ingredients.

And I think there’s nowhere where that’s more important than fresh seafood..

We’ve all taken that stroll through a supermarket reeking of questionable seafood products and bleach, only to find our appetite and enthusiasm taking a dip. Or nosedive.  No pun intended.

Well worry not, we’ve got you covered! Read on for how to buy fresh fish and where to buy it in the Gulfport, Treasure Island, St Pete Beach and St Petersburg area.

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Mary Oliver

How to Buy Fresh Fish

Step 1: Go to a local and reputable seafood shop.  See the next section “Where to Buy” below.

Step 2: Ask what the freshest fish is or what the catch of the day is.

Step 3: If you decided to buy anything other than what they tell you is freshest or the catch of the day, make sure what you’re buying isn’t “previously frozen”.

Step 4: Make sure the flesh is firm and shiny.  It should provide resistance when touched. Don’t go poking it with your uncovered finger, however. I saw one source that said the fish should look as if it might jump up and swim away. If only, the fish is thinking. If only…

Step 5: Sniff it. Yes it’s ok.  Fish isn’t supposed to smell fishy. It should smell fresh.

Step 6: If the poor creature still has its head intact, check the eyes.  They should be clear, not cloudy.  (You know, so he can see better…)

Step 7: Gills if present should be bright pink and wet. No slimeyness.  Ever.

Step 8: For fillets or steaks, make sure the meat doesn’t separate from itself.  If it does it isn’t fresh.

Step 9: If the fish still has its skin, make sure the skin is not discolored.  No brown or yellow edges. Mostly this means even, consistent coloring.

Line ’em up

Where to Buy #1 – Key West Shrimp Company

We get it.  You’re not in Key West.  And no, I don’t know why. But I do know that the entire business is a family affair, with their own boats and own stores.  One shop is located in St Pete Beach and the other in Madeira Beach.

“Most of our fish was swimming less than 24 hours ago.” Says it right on the website. You’d have to fish for it yourself to get it any fresher.  Like them on Facebook to find out what their specials and fresh catches are.

Read about their dedication to sustainability here.  And check out products available in their online store here.  (Fish Spread fans will find some things to love here!)  You can even ship some home if you’d like.

10 am to 6 pm every day.  St Pete Beach location is 7217 Gulf Blvd Ste 13 (727) 873-3913.  Madeira Beach location is 215 150th Ave. (727) 592-1885

Perfect Salmon

Where to Buy #2 – Mid-Peninsula Seafood

​

Both a restaurant and a full-service fish market.   Looking for something special? Call them! They just may be able to deliver.

Not sure which fish to buy? Visit their Fish School for tips on cooking and information on origin.

Mid Peninsula Seafood’s restaurant is one of my faves. Soups, sandwiches, dinners and big orders to feed a gang.  Fish Spread is available and something you don’t see just anywhere – hushpuppies! They call them Cornpuppies!

Find the full menu of prepared foods here.

Follow them on Facebook.

They’re gone fishing on Sundays.  Just keep that in mind.  Open Monday – Saturday 11 am – 9 pm.  400 49th St S, St Petersburg, FL 33707

Insider Tip: The Seafood Watch App

Download the app for your phone.  Sustainability at your fingertips!

Where to Buy #3 – Gulf Coast Seafood

Gulfport has two outstanding places to buy seafood.  “Fresh From the Boat“.

Gulf Coast Seafood began by providing products to stores, resorts and restaurants over a large part of Florida.  In response to repeated requests over the years, they are now selling to the public with their own retail shop!

Fresh fish in display cases.  Frozen products are vacuum packed). Head on over and catch tonight’s dinner.

Follow them on Facebook.

4921 9th Ave S, Gulfport (727) 321-1068   Open from 10 am – 6 pm Monday through Friday. 10 am to 4 pm Saturday

Chances are they have what you fancy

Where to Buy #4 – Don’s Dock & Wild Seafood Market

Don’s Dock has a wonderful fish market in addition to provide bait, ice and other gear you need to go fishing.

You can call 727-391-3223 for the Catch of the Day, see where your sustainably-caught seafood is coming from “Track Your Fish” and more.

Sauce and seasonings available too.  Online seafood market coming soon.

Check out the photo gallery for sample wares.  Those babies look ready to go home with you.

Don’s Dock Wild Seafood Market is located at 215 Boardwalk Place E, Madeira Beach, Fl. (727) 391-3223

Insider Tip: Sustainable Seafood?

View the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Consumer Guide here.

Recipe Suggestion: Perfect Salmon

Note: This cooking technique can be used on other varieties of fish too.  Just use your seasoning of choice!

Ingredients

  • Salmon filets, not steaks
  • Olive Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Maple Syrup

Spray or rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom or skin-side of the fish.  Massage soy sauce into the top of the fish.  Place the fish skin side down on a small metal tray.  (Sizzle platters are perfect for this.) Pour a modest amount (approximately 1 T) of maple syrup over the top of the fish and spread it around.

Place the salmon in a COLD oven.   Now turn the oven on to 400 degrees and set a timer for 25 minutes. Your fish will be moist and flaky and the soy sauce maple syrup on top provides a slight crunch.

Enjoy!

Perfect every time

Disposing of Fish Parts – How to be a Good Neighbor!

No matter how fresh that fish is when you get it, eventually it won’t be.  If you have leftovers (or leftover “parts”), please don’t just toss them (bagged or not) in the trash can and let them marinate until trash day. Please help keep the trash cans clean and smelling the best they can by refrigerating your excess in a plastic bag and tossing out the morning of trash pickup.

Insider Tip:

Visit Allrecipes.com

For an amazing assortment of delicious seafood recipes

February St Petersburg Area Events Splashy

February Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday ArtWalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

Gulfport’s Get Rescued, Gulfport

Continuing into its 16th year, this event is one of the largest animal rescue events in the state.  All profits benefit participating non-profit rescue groups.  From 10 am to 6 pm Gulfport’s historic waterfront district is overtaken by these organizations to raise awareness and find homes for pets.

Learn about pet health, see training demos, find a new friend and participate in the pet parade with your beloved companion.  The event is free and parking is available in the area.

The 2020 event is on Saturday, February 22nd in the Historic Gulfport Waterfront District.

The event’s website is here.

St Pete Beach Seafood & Music Festival

Fresh and local ingredients means the St Pete Beach Seafood & Music Festival should be on your list

2019 marks the second year for this new event.  Held on Corey Avenue in St Pete Beach Feb 1-3, 2019.

Expect a laid-back vibe with live music, shopping marketplace and tasty foods.  This food won’t be your normal craft-fair food.  Instead it will be food cooked onsite using fresh ingredients and seafood dishes from Florida  coastal waters.

Hours, directions, parking information and a list and schedule of musical performers can be found on the event’s website.

2Cool Art Show – Gulfport

February 1-2, 2020 at the Gulfport Casino at 5500 Shore Blvd.  The 2Cool Art Show is hosted by the Professional Association of Visual Artists.

Thirty-five juried artists will participate in 2019, showing and selling a variety of hand crafted visual and functional works in paint, wood, ceramics, photography, metal, glass, mixed media and jewelry.  Admission and parking are free!

There’s a sister event to this show in July, for summer visitors – the Cool Art Show.

Check out the 2nd annual Peace. Love and Pride festival

Gulfport Peace, Love & Pride Festival – 2020

2019 was the inaugural year for this event celebrating Gulfport’s commitment to diversity.  2020’s event will take place on February 16, 2020 from noon to 5 pm in and around the Gulfport Casino.

You can read more about the inspiration for this new event here.

Gulfport has two juried art festivals during the month of February!

4th Annual Gulfport Fine Arts Festival

Formerly know as the Gulfport Masters, this festival takes place in Veteran’s Park at 5350 31st Ave S in Gulfport.

The event takes place February 8-9 in 2020 from 10 am to 5 pm both days.  It is also a juried event.  If you don’t know what a juried event is, it means that artists have to apply and their works are determined to be found worthy of entry by a panel of judges.  The process of reviewing the submissions is intended to raise the quality of the show and help the event stand out from the sometimes busy field of art and craft shows.

Visit the events Facebook page for a short video about this year’s event and a preview of a few artists participating this year.

Florida Strawberry Festival

Did you know about Florida’s love affair with the strawberry? No, not the orange. (Or any citrus, really.)  The strawberry!  The first time I visited the Florida Strawberry Festival I thought it might be somewhat unique.  It’s not.  There are strawberry festivals all over the United States and even some in Canada, Australia, Italy and Japan. You can find a website with links to worldwide strawberry festivals here.

But we’re talking about the Florida Strawberry Festival, held in (where else?) Plant City, Florida in late February and early March.  11 days in all.

The website is https://flstrawberryfestival.com.  You van find out about rides & attractions, musical talent and visit the livestock show.  Visit the website and signup for updates via email including 2020 dates!.

Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival

I don’t know about you, but for me blues festivals always seem to come with hot & steamy weather.  In Summer.

Summer can be a four-letter word in the South. So how about a blues festival in February, and in Florida. Seems hard to pass up. 2020’s event takes place Feb 21-23.

I suggest liking them on Facebook to get updates on the festival.

Cupid’s Undie Run 5K

A bunch of strangers in their underwear.

Running. What could be better than that? I’m sure everyone will look like a model.  Not.   But hey at least you’re not doing the run in Minnesota. Or Philadelphia.  Or Chicago.

But in all seriousness, the proceeds go towards the search for a cure for neurofibromatosis, a genetic tumor disorder that affects 1 in every 3,000 births.  They run in their undies because those affected with NF can’t cover up their tumors to feel more comfortable, so why should we?

The 2020 St Pete run is Feb 8.  Find out more here.

Yum!

St Pete French Fry Festival

So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say St Petersburg?

French fries?

I didn’t think so.

Still, there must be something to it, because this festival goes for 2 days.  This isn’t Fred and a few buddies getting together to celebrate pomme frites.  I think of chocolate for Valentines Day.  The Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association thought potatoes were more fitting.  Go figure.

Straub Park, downtown St Pete.  Find info on their Facebook page here.  And send some pictures, will ya? Feb 14 and 15, 2020

St Petersburg Super Greek Festival

Lots of towns have Greek festivals, but St Pete has a Super Greek festival.  I’ll be there, doing my super greek version of Rick James’ “Super Freak”.

While just sampling a wide assortment of Greek food should be enough incentive by itself, at the Super Greek festival you can also shop, watch traditional Greek dance performances and send the kids on some amusement rides.

The 2020 dates are Feb 21- Feb 23 at St Stefanos Greek Church, located at 3600 76th St N in St Petersburg.  Check out the facebook page here.

Florida Food & Brews Festival

Feb 1, 2020 England Brothers Park, 5010 81st Ave N, Pinellas Park.  (Rain date Feb 8)

Enjoy fantastic food. Sample some of the areas best craft brewers. Support local rescues. Be entertained.  What more could you want?  Find them on Facebook

St Petersburg Fine Art Festival

The 7th Annual St Petersburg Fine Art Festival showcases original artwork by more than 100 artisans from throughout Florida and across the United States.  It really is a don’t miss event, and given that the event spans 2 days you really have no excuse not to go.  Dates in 2020 are February 22-23. Location South Straub Park, St Petersburg.

Night Market St Pete

For night owls, vampires or just those who are otherwise not afraid of the dark, there is the Night Market.  It’s located in the St Pete Warehouse District next to 3 Daughters Brewing and its held sort of whenever they feel like it.  The next one is February 27th, 2020.  And about 2 weeks after that, so mid-March, they’ll let you know when the next one will be.  So I suggest following them on Facebook or something so you can stay in the know.  

Sanding Ovations Masters Cup Treasure Island Florida

 

“Birth of Venus”

I was really blown away by the artistry, skill and creativity of the contestants.

To begin with, each sculpture has a designated plot and the installations are huge.  Sand is delivered on pallets (yes, pallets) so these folk are not out there with their $2 plastic buckets from the local beach store.

Beautiful weather for 2018

So for my first year my friend Rita and I only went on the next to last day, which is the day judging takes place.

This was a mistake.

If you have time it really makes sense to attend on the first and second days as well.  The finished products are sensational.  They’re thought-provoking, puzzling and sometimes appear to defy the laws of gravity.  And what would have made it even more special would have been to see how they were built.

Sculptors and Sculptures

2018 saw record-breaking attendance and the amazing group of sculptures and their impressive work is why.

Although I do not know the precise judging criteria of this specific event, typically the judges in sand sculpting event consider such things as:

  • How well the plot space was used – is there a lot of empty space
  • Did they use all the sand provided?
  • Is it a clever idea or a fresh approach to a subject
  • How difficult was it? Consideration of the use of cut-throughs, height, overhangs
  • Faithfulness to any theme
  • Execution

Keep scrolling to view many photos from this year’s event!

“Freedom” by Jonathan “Jobi” Bouchard of Canada

The 2018 First Place and People’s Choice Winner – “Freedom”.

Freedom” is one where I would have loved to hear the artist’s explanation of his work.

While I don’t understand the message, the sheer scale of the face and the multiple carve-outs and arches may help explain why this sculpture won First Place and also won the People’s Choice award this year.

Jobi Bouchard had previously won first place at this competition FIVE times!

“Internal Universe” by Aleksei Rybak of Russia

Sunshine Beach is on the north end, running from just south of John’s Pass for about seven blocks to 120th Ave. With fewer hotels and more residential areas, this stretch of Treasure Island is laid-back and loved by locals.

Aleksei Rybak takes a moment.

Aleksei is a graduate of the Moscow Art College of Applied Art.

insider tip: judging

Sculptures are evaluated on things like originality, technical difficulty, faithfulness to a theme, execution and use of space

“Birth of Venus” by Sue McGrew of Washington

I enjoyed “Birth of Venus” immensely.  The overall shape and the lovely curving tentacles were delightful.

Artist Sue McGrew working on her sculpture’s finishes

Note some of the tools on the bench in the foreground.  Small shovels, brushes and sprayers.

A sculpture within a sculpture

I’m not clear if this was the front or back.  But either way both are beautiful.

Sculptor Sue McGrew works in sand, ice and snow.  She has won a number of competitions.

“Fusion” by JOOheng Tan of Singapore

I can’t say that I fully appreciated “Fusion” at first viewing.  It seemed so simple relative to many of the others. But the more I looked the more I saw.  And I began to appreciate just how tall it was and how difficult it must be to stack that much sand in such a narrow tower.

And then to carve out the delicate shapes in that thin strip of an opening?  Our next photo has a close-up of the inside.

A sand odyssey anyone?

insider tip: JoBI Bouchard

Jobi Bouchard of Canada, and the 2018 First Place and People’s Choice Winner, has won this event six times.

JOOheng is from Singapore.  His work has been showcased in over 60 cities across more than 20 countries around the world.

Worth visiting is this link to a story about three 18-ton sand sculptures JOOheng was asked to make as part of an advertising campaign encouraging kids to get dirty.  The campaign was called “Dirt is Good“.  The link contains photos and a video showing the creation and behind-the-scenes execution.

Amazing!

Inside the monolith.  This can’t have been easy.

“Chagrin” by Carl Jara of Ohio

So much emotion conveyed here

insider tip: single or double?

Some sand sculpting competitions feature teams of sculptors, in addition to works by individuals.

The ledge was in place and the hollow part carved out so Carl had a place to stand to work on the top.

“Bobby Fisher” by Jakob “Kuba” Zimacek of Czech Republic

The subtitle of this entry is “the chess legend who broke all the patterns“.

Jakob has been sculpting since 2003 when he got his start on the beaches of southern Spain.  Since then he has won several prizes in international competitions.

“Bobby Fisher” – the chess legend who broke all the patterns

Jakob putting finishing touches to his piece.  Note the tanks filled with water and it looks like some sand?

The chessboard was one of the last components added, bringing it all together

“Circular Argument” by Abe Waterman of Canada

“Circular Argument” was one of my personal favorites.  It was fun to walk around and around trying to find a shot that would capture all 3 faces as well as the toilet and interior of the installation.

I cam sort of close, in the 4th photo below, but I should have moved a little further to the right.  In my defense I was fighting sun rather high in the sky and people.  Lots of them.

Sculptor Abe Waterman looks like he is enjoying himself

I bet these two couldn’t lose each other in a crowd if they wanted to. The face on the left agrees.

I’m no sand sculptor, but as with JOOheng Tan’s sculpture, making these tall vertical pieces must be tricky.  I would guess the sand has to be just the right amount of “compactness” – I admit I’m making that term up – and moistness to stay up like this?

Note the detail in the eyes and the catchlights of the pupils

Each face has its own unique expression. I guess this conversation is going down the toilet?

Abe making final touches with his repurposed pest control spraying tank.  Who knew?

“Whether Greek or Roman” by Rachel Stubbs of England

He (or she?) seems content to watch the crowds

Children posing for a photo op

I see dinner

insider tip: The weekend before Thanksgiving

The dates of this event vary from year to year but it is always held then weekend before Thanksgiving.

“Rodan Remixed” by Fergus Mulvany of Ireland

At first glance “Rodan Remixed” seemed like one of the smaller installations. But that was really because it was so compact.  Move a little closer and you began to appreciate the scale and the amount of sand all in this one block.

I was not there for the artist’s explanation of his piece, but my understanding is that three figures are represented.

Loving the sense of energy

Fergus Mulvany chatting with a couple of attendees on judging day

Imagine these shadows and textures later in the day

insider tip: 2018 videos on facebook

Click here to go to the Sanding Ovations Masters Cup Facebook page and view videos of the projects in the works along with the awards ceremony!

“To Be or Not To Be” by Jan Selen of Netherlands

Jan Selen’s piece is another one where I would loved to have heard the artist’s interpretation of their work.  However, even without that, I loved it.  The man with the snail being my favorite.

Jan Selen making some final touches

One figure is looking at the phone in his hand and the other at the snail in his hand

The full installation

One of my favorite elements

The universal “I’m looking at my phone” face

2018 Winners

  • First Place – “Freedom” by Jobi Bouchard
  • Second Place – “Circular Argument” by Abe Waterman
  • Third Place – “Rodan Remixed” by Fergus Mulvany
  • Sculptor’s Choice – a TIE between “Fusion” by JOOheng Tan and “Circular Argument” by Abe Waterman
  • People’s Choice – “Freedom” by Jobi Bouchard

Other Things to Do at This Event

In addition to the sculptures there are vendors selling arts, crafts, clothing, gift items and food.

Many of these vendors I had not seen at other shows, so they’re worth a visit all by themselves.

Photographing the Event

Besides going multiple days so that you can use your photos to tell a story, another thing you can do is to go earlier or later in the day. Generally speaking, photographing in the middle of the day (say between 10 and 2) is going to result in harsher light and less interesting shadows.

If you go earlier in the day or later in the day, the shadows on the sculptures will be softer and more interesting, depending on your position relative to the sculpture and the rising or setting sun. And an added bonus is that there may be fewer people.

By all means bring along your iphone for some video, but if you have a smaller camera with interchangeable lenses, you can worry less about the crowds. You can zoom in on some of the individual components.

Don’t be afraid to work your way around each installation, noting changes in the appearance.

Pamela Moore

 

” That’s the hell of sand castles.  They are always doomed.  That’s part of their beauty – their impermanence.”

Leave a comment below and tell us what you love about this event if you attended!

Next event: Nov 18th – 22nd, 20202018 marked my first trip to this event and it’s really difficult to overhype it.  I’ve never been to anything like this and so I didn’t know what to expect.

I knew it was invitation-only, so this isn’t Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver playing at the beach.  This is well-known and well-respected sculptors from around the world, spending 4 days of their lives in the elements and vying for a significant prize.

“Birth of Venus”

I was really blown away by the artistry, skill and creativity of the contestants.

To begin with, each sculpture has a designated plot and the installations are huge. Sand is delivered on pallets (yes, pallets) so these folk are not out there with their $2 plastic buckets from the local beach store.

Beautiful weather at this time of year

So for my first year my friend Rita and I only went on the next to last day, which is the day judging takes place.

This was a mistake.

If you have time it really makes sense to attend on the first and second days as well. The finished products are sensational. They’re thought-provoking, puzzling and sometimes appear to defy the laws of gravity. And what would have made it even more special would have been to see how they were built.

Sculptors and Sculptures

2018 saw record-breaking attendance and the amazing group of sculptures and their impressive work is why.

Although I do not know the precise judging criteria of this specific event, typically the judges in sand sculpting event consider such things as:

  • How well the plot space was used – is there a lot of empty space
  • Did they use all the sand provided?
  • Is it a clever idea or a fresh approach to a subject
  • How difficult was it
  • Consideration of the use of cut-throughs, height, overhangs
  • Faithfulness to any theme
  • Execution

Keep scrolling to view many photos from this year’s event!

2018 Winner: “Freedom” by Jonathan “Jobi” Bouchard of Canada

“Freedom” is one where I would have loved to hear the artist’s explanation of his work.

While I don’t understand the message, the sheer scale of the face and the multiple carve-outs and arches may help explain why this sculpture won First Place and also won the People’s Choice award this year.

Jobi Bouchard had previously won first place at this competition FIVE times

“Internal Universe” by Aleksei Rybak of Russia

Sunshine Beach is on the north end, running from just south of John’s Pass for about seven blocks to 120th Ave. With fewer hotels and more residential areas, this stretch of Treasure Island is laid-back and loved by locals.

Aleksei Rybak takes a moment. He is a graduate of the Moscow Art College of Applied Art.

Insider Tip: Judging

Sculptures are evaluated on things like originality, technical difficulty, faithfulness to a theme, execution and use of space

“Birth of Venus” by Sue McGrew of Washington

I enjoyed “Birth of Venus” immensely. The overall shape and the lovely curving tentacles were delightful.

Artist Sue McGrew working on her sculpture’s finishes

Note some of the tools on the bench in the foreground. Small shovels, brushes and sprayers.

A sculpture within a sculpture

I’m not clear if this was the front or back. But either way both are beautiful.

Sculptor Sue McGrew works in sand, ice and snow. She has won a number of competitions.

“Fusion” by JOOheng Tan of Singapore

I can’t say that I fully appreciated “Fusion” at first viewing. It seemed so simple relative to many of the others. But the more I looked the more I saw. And I began to appreciate just how tall it was and how difficult it must be to stack that much sand in such a narrow tower.
And then to carve out the delicate shapes in that thin strip of an opening? Our next photo has a close-up of the inside.

A sand odyssey anyone?

Insider Tip: JoBI Bouchard

Jobi Bouchard of Canada, and the 2018 First Place and People’s Choice Winner, has won this event six times.

JOOheng is from Singapore. His work has been showcased in over 60 cities across more than 20 countries around the world.

Worth visiting is this link to a story about three 18-ton sand sculptures JOOheng was asked to make as part of an advertising campaign encouraging kids to get dirty. The campaign was called “Dirt is Good“. The link contains photos and a video showing the creation and behind-the-scenes execution.

Amazing!

Inside the monolith. This can’t have been easy.

“Chagrin” by Carl Jara of Ohio

So much emotion conveyed here

Insider Tip: Single or double?

Some sand sculpting competitions feature teams of sculptors, in addition to works by individuals.

The ledge was in place and the hollow part carved out so Carl had a place to stand to work on the top.

“Bobby Fisher” by Jakob “Kuba” Zimacek of Czech Republic

The subtitle of this entry is “the chess legend who broke all the patterns“.

Jakob has been sculpting since 2003 when he got his start on the beaches of southern Spain. Since then he has won several prizes in international competitions.

“Bobby Fisher” – the chess legend who broke all the patterns

Jakob putting finishing touches to his piece. Note the tanks filled with water and it looks like some sand?

The chessboard was one of the last components added, bringing it all together

“Circular Argument” by Abe Waterman of Canada

“Circular Argument” was one of my personal favorites. It was fun to walk around and around trying to find a shot that would capture all 3 faces as well as the toilet and interior of the installation.

I cam sort of close, in the 4th photo below, but I should have moved a little further to the right. In my defense I was fighting sun rather high in the sky and people. Lots of them.

Sculptor Abe Waterman looks like he is enjoying himself

I bet these two couldn’t lose each other in a crowd if they wanted to. The face on the left agrees.

I’m no sand sculptor, but as with JOOheng Tan’s sculpture, making these tall vertical pieces must be tricky. I would guess the sand has to be just the right amount of “compactness” – I admit I’m making that term up – and moistness to stay up like this?

Note the detail in the eyes and the catchlights of the pupils

Each face has its own unique expression. I guess this conversation is going down the toilet?

Abe making final touches with his repurposed pest control spraying tank. Who knew?

“Whether Greek or Roman” by Rachel Stubbs of England

He (or she?) seems content to watch the crowds

Children posing for a photo op

I see dinner

Insider Tip: The weekend before Thanksgiving

The dates of this event vary from year to year but it is always held then weekend before Thanksgiving.

“Rodan Remixed” by Fergus Mulvany of Ireland

At first glance “Rodan Remixed” seemed like one of the smaller installations. But that was really because it was so compact. Move a little closer and you began to appreciate the scale and the amount of sand all in this one block.

I was not there for the artist’s explanation of his piece, but my understanding is that three figures are represented.

oving the sense of energy

Fergus Mulvany chatting with a couple of attendees on judging day

Imagine these shadows and textures later in the day

Insider Tip: Videos on facebook

Click here to go to the Sanding Ovations Masters Cup Facebook page and view videos of the projects in the works along with the awards ceremony!

“To Be or Not To Be” by Jan Selen of Netherlands

Jan Selen’s piece is another one where I would loved to have heard the artist’s interpretation of their work. However, even without that, I loved it. The man with the snail being my favorite.

Jan Selen making some final touches

One figure is looking at the phone in his hand and the other at the snail in his hand

The full installation

One of my favorite elements

The universal “I’m looking at my phone” face

Other Things to Do at This Event

In addition to the sculptures there are vendors selling arts, crafts, clothing, gift items and food.

Many of these vendors I had not seen at other shows, so they’re worth a visit all by themselves.

Photographing the Event

Besides going multiple days so that you can use your photos to tell a story, another thing you can do is to go earlier or later in the day. Generally speaking, photographing in the middle of the day (say between 10 and 2) is going to result in harsher light and less interesting shadows.

If you go earlier in the day or later in the day, the shadows on the sculptures will be softer and more interesting, depending on your position relative to the sculpture and the rising or setting sun. And an added bonus is that there may be fewer people.

By all means bring along your iphone for some video, but if you have a smaller camera with interchangeable lenses, you can worry less about the crowds. You can zoom in on some of the individual components.

Don’t be afraid to work your way around each installation, noting changes in the appearance.

” That’s the hell of sand castles. They are always doomed. That’s part of their beauty – their impermanence.”

Pamela Moore

Leave a comment below and tell us what you love about this event if you attended!

August St Petersburg Area Events Splashy Ventures

August Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday ArtWalk

St Pete: First Friday 

St Pete: Second Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

August Special Events

Great St Pete Cupcake Contest

Held at the Morean Arts Center. 420 22nd St South in the Warehouse Arts District.
Sample and get some ideas of your own, and help St Petersburg choose the Peoples Choice!  Your sweet tooth will thank you.

Great St Pete Cupcake Contest

Pet Pal Pub Crawl

Organized by the Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St Pete, this pub crawl benefits you and animals in need.  Raffle tickets available, Doggie Biscuit Bars at every stop and drink specials.

Art Gecko Show Opening Reception – Gulfport

Artists create larger-than-life geckos in the theme of the current year’s GeckoFest.  In 2018 the theme was Geckocon, so geckos were to reflect the artists’ interpretation of superheroes, villains, cult characters, imaginary locations and more, from comics, books, movies, etc.
After the opening reception the geckos are moved to preview locations in venues throughout Gulfport’s Waterfront District.  The geckos eventually go up for auction at the Gecko Ball.

Gecko Crawl – Gulfport

A limited ticket event, the Gecko Crawl helps usher in “Gecko Season” in Gulfport.  (And believe me, fall is indeed Gecko Season.  They’re everywhere! Babies, tiny babies and more babies!)
Tickets are only available at the Gulfport Beach Bazaar at 3115 Beach Blvd in Gulfport.
Participation in the crawl includes a free drink at each location, a poker run and an after party.  The after-party includes a band and an award ceremony.

FishKids

If you’re going to be in the area in August and you have an aspiring angler in your midst, I don’t think you can go wrong with Fish Kids.
Dedicated to “shaping the next generation of anglers”, this event, or really series of events, promises something for all.  There are learning labs, demos, knot tying, seminars, castnetting, games and a seawall fishing tournament. Get your youngsters educated and involved in the water and conservation now.
Held at ROC Park in Madeira Beach.

Gecko Ball

Another staple in Gecko Season is the Gecko Ball.  Past themes have included Geckocon, Geckostock, GeckoGras, Roaring Geckos and more.
The ball is held at the Historic Gulfport Casino ballroom. Tickets are only available at the Gulfport Beach Bazaar at 3115 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport.
Dress to impress! Scenery and decor provided at the event, along with a cash photo booth, dancing, live music, a live and silent auction and tasty treats.
This ball sells out every year so it is important to get your tickets early.  The 2020 ball will be held on August 29th.

It’s Not Every Day You Get to Dress Wacky!

Geckofest

GeckoFest is Gulfport’s wacky answer to the end of summer.  As noted previously, Gecko’s are Gulfport’s unofficial mascot and definitely the town’s favorite reptile.

GeckoFest takes place in Gulfport’s Waterfront District and is family friendly. There’s food, live music, kids’ activities, street performance artists and a parade.

It might occur to you that a festival named after a gecko might have a colorful backstory and you’d be right. You can read the short history of how the festival got its start, or you can read the O-FISH-al GECKO legends!

(The date for GeckoFest moves between August and September each year, but the Gecko-related events that lead up to GeckoFest are almost always in August.)

10 am to 10 pm.  The Gulfport Trolley and Gulfport’s GetGO offers transportation options so you can attend without worrying about where to park.

Festival Goers

Great Bay Scallop Search

Not your usual wine, dine and relax event, the Great Bay Scallop Search is an annual resource monitoring event.
Organized by Tampa Bay Watch, the event recruits volunteers to snorkel along set transect lines to search for scallops in select areas within Boca Ciega and Lower Tampa Bay. The search needs volunteers with shallow draft boats and limited spots for canoes and kayaks.
Bay scallops are important due to their ability to filter water.  They’r extremely sensitive to pollution, thus serving as useful “underwater canaries” to signal changes in water quality.
Bay scallops disappeared from Tampa Bay in the early 1960’s due to highly polluted bay water.  You can see scallop search counts since 1996 here.
Even if you can’t volunteer, it is worth a few minutes of your time to learn about these delightful creatures.

  • If you think sea turtles have challenges, know that of the 12 million eggs a single scallop releases, only one may survive to adulthood.  
  • Tiny blue eyes along the outer rim of the shell detect movement and serve as an early warning system for scallops.
  • Although clams may live 40 years, the average life span of a bay scallop is 12-18 months.
  • An adult scallop can pump as much as 14.7 liters of water per hour by funneling water across open pathways on its gill covers.

Great Bay Scallop Search Helps Count Bay Scallops

Tampa Bay Comic Con

My guess is if you’re interested in a Comic Convention, you probably already have the dates for this one on your calendar.  In advance.  Way in advance. These things are a big deal and attract huge crowds in almost every city that has them. And Tampa is no different.

This event features a roster of comic industry professionals, as well as related celebrities.  Exhibitors reflect a wide variety of interests – comic books, toys, games, Star Wars, manga, artwork, clothing, magazines, and, of course, comic books.

2019 dates are August 2-4, 2019.  The event is family-friendly and FREE for children. Tampa Convention Center; 333 S Franklin St, Tampa

November St Petersburg Area Events Splashy Ventures

November Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday Artwalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday Artwalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday Artwalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

St Pete Beach: Corey Avenue Sunday Market

Treasure Island: Open Air Market (Fridays)

November Special Events

Tampa Bay Holiday Market

November 17 and 18, 2018 at the Coliseum, 535 4th Ave N. Free parking. (pay attention to the N or NE or S or SE on the end of street addresses when you head into downtown St Petersburg.  For the sake of your sanity.)

Santa will be there both Saturday and Sunday.  Just in case you need your Santa fix.

Check out the event’s Facebook page here.  They promise to help you with your holiday shopping list.

Tampa Bay Holiday Market is a must for your holiday shopping list

Ribfest

Nov 9-11 Vinoy Park. Tagline – Rockin’ Ribs – Helpin’ Kids.

There’s some really good musical talent at this event. Both mainstream and cover/tribute bands. Check out the lineup here.

A list of “Ribbers” can be found here.

Shopapalooza

Nov28-29, 2020.  Vinoy Park, downtown St Petersburg.  Or more specifically, 198 Bayshore Drive. 10 am – 5 pm.  Admission is free. There are other ways they will get your money.

This event features more than 130 local shops.  There’s a kids’ zone so you can let them exhaust themselves for a bit, then get back to your shopping.

Well-behaved pets on leash are welcomed.  

Where shoppers go to really shop

St Pete Power & Sailboat Show

Heralded as the largest boat show on the Gulf Coast, this event runs from November 29th to Sunday, December 2 at the Duke Energy Center for the Arts, Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park in St Petersburg, Florida.

Clearly displaying boats takes up a little space.

In addition to boats you will find marine gear, special events and educational activities. Hopefully no cooking demonstrations for the latest miracle cookware.

Click here to plan your visit! This event is big so you need to know where you’re going.

Kenwood BungalowFest Tour

Nov 3, 2018, 10 am – 4 pm.  This event is in its 20th year and will feature 10 homes that reflect the historic architecture and character of the Kenwood Neighborhood.

Kenwood’s roots are in an avocado grove in 1912, when the grove was subdivided and developed.  Craftsman homes were common, with most homes built between the 1920’s and 1950’s.  However, as suburbanization occurred, many homes fell into disrepair over the next 3 or 4 decades. Revitalization began in the 1990’s, as a few people began buying and restoring these homes.

Historic Kenwood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Purchase tickets in advance here.  (They are also available the day of the event.)  A trolley is available to take you from house to house.

You can read more about Kenwood here and watch a video.

 
Old Salt Foundation Fish Spread Contest

In 2018 this delicious event is being held on November 13th at Gators Cafe at John’s Pass.

Not familiar with fish spread? Check out our blog post on fish spread here.

This is not an observation-only event.  For a $2 donation you can sample all of the entered fish spreads and vote for the Peoples Choice Award winner.  And if making fish spread is your thing, you can enter for only $10 per entry!

Smoked fish spread at its finest

Treasure Island Sand Sculpture Competition and Music Festival

Also known as the Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup.  November 20-24, 2019, near the Bilmar Beach Resort, 10650 Gulf Boulevard.

Several tons of sand, a bit of water, a vivid imagination (and a plan!) and you find the largest masters competition in the southeastern U.S.

The competition is invitational and will feature at least ten master sculptors.

The event’s website is here and the Facebook page here.

View our blogpost on the 2018 event (with tons of photos!) HERE.

Sand sand everywhere

Sponge Docks Seafood Festival

The Sponge Docks are in Tarpon Springs, so a little more of a drive than we normally consider for the St Petersburg calendar of events, but the docks are so different that it is worth the drive.

This event is in its 31st year, so they’ve clearly figured this festival thing out. Admission is free and there is limited free parking at Dog Splash Park at 508 Live Oak Street, Tarpon Springs.

The Tarpon Springs and Greektown Historic Districts (separate areas) ae listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so you may wish to make this an all-day trek and visit them while you’re in the area. The Tarpon Springs Historic District is bounded by Read Street, Hibiscus Street, Orange Street, Lewis Avenue, Lemon Street and Spring Bayou.  The entire area is about 700 acres and it contains 145 historic buildings.

The Greektown Historic District is Florida’s first Traditional Cultural Property listing. Check the App Store Icon on your phone and search for “Florida Stories”.  You can download the app and click the “Discover” tab to find the Walk: Tarpon Springs tour.

Live music, local seafood, arts and crafts and specialty vendors. Insider tip: Visit Spongeorama while you’re there.  There’s an exhibit center inside along with a short movie/video and the people that work there are extremely knowledgeable.  We wanted to pull up a chair and listen for hours!

You may find a sponge or two. Or three.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked – Sip Savor Repeat

Uncorked is not just a food and wine event in a beach town.  The trademarked phrase for the event is “Wine in your hand, toes in the sand”.  This event is held directly on Clearwater Beach, south of Pier 60.  The event is held rain or shine and there are no refunds for inclement weather.

Children under 21, pets, outside food and drink and backpacks not permitted.

Uncorked

Craft Beer Festival

Get a souvenir tasting mug and sample over 100 craft ales. It’s not every day you can find this many choices in one place.

Hosted at Cajun Cafe on the Bayou in Pinellas Park.  2 – 6 pm November 3, 2018

Fall King of the Beach Fishing Festival

Another great event sponsored by the Old Salt Fishing Foundation, the fall Kingfish tournament Nov 8-10, 2018 is being held in Maderia Beach Florida.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the tournament, so there’s sure to be some celebrations to make it even more memorable.

King of the Beach Fishing Festival

St Pete Beach Bike Fest

Nov 14 -18, 2018 St Pete Beach, Tradewinds Resort.

Five days of motorcycles, music and mayhem. You can find the event calendar here.

October St Petersburg Area Events Splashy Ventures

October Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday ArtWalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday ArtWalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

St Pete Beach: Corey Avenue Sunday Market

October Special Events

VW Beach Bash – Pass-A-Grille

October 20, 2018.  9th Ave from 10 am – 4 pm. In its 10th year.

Betty’s Beach Clean Up starts at 8 am. VW Car Show at 10 am.

Free to the public. Merchandise goes early, so you may wish to order early. Check the event’s Facebook page here. You can order by emailing them or messaging them from the Facebook page and they will ship them a few days after the show.

VW Bash at Pass-A-Grille

Clearwater Jazz Holiday

October 18-21, 2018. Coachman Park, Clearwater.  National and local performing acts.  2018 headliners include The Doobie Brothers and George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers.

Tickets go up the day of the event.  Reserved seating available.  Sounds like a good time!

Honeymoon Island’s Halloween in the Park

October 26-27, 2018 at Honeymoon Island State Park, 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, Fl

Haunted hayrides, carnival games, crafts, DJ music jams, Boo in the Zoo, costume contests (for children 12 and under), bounce houses, scary trail, mythical-magical children’s trail, storytelling! Oh, and ghouls, ghosts and goblins!

$5 ($10?) parking, $5 Haunted Hayride, $10 Wristband (includes most other events). Pricing unclear.

Download the flyer here.

Ghosts, goblins and ghouls!

Howl-O-Fest

October 19 and 20, 2018 at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 6-10 pm both days. 2900 31st St S, at the Environmental Studies Area.

This family-friendly event features Inflatable games, fire shows, hay rides, arts & crafts and trick or treat cabins. Cake Walks at 7 pm, 8 pm and 9 pm.  Bet you haven’t done one of those in awhile.

St Pete Zombie Food Booze Crawl

Zombie flash mob anyone? Um, maybe? Albert Whitted Park (downtown St Pete) hosts this event with fun, food, live music, and, of course, zombies.

Tons of food trucks and a costume festival.  Admission is free. 6-10 pm.  October 19, 2018

Clearwater Chalk Art Festival

Arts, crafts, a kid zone.  Three days. October 19th, 20th and 21st in 2018.

During these 3 days chalk artists quite literally transform sidewalks of BeachWalk on South Clearwater Beach. Planning on hanging around for awhile and watch these artists create these masterpieces before your eyes.

Competition, prizes and “People’s Choice Awards” on the last day of the event.

Views photos from the 2017 Chalk Art Festival here.

Clearwater Chalk Art Festival

John’s Pass Seafood Festival 

A 4 day celebration, including a halloween Block Party.  Live music.  Costume contests.  Battle of the Gulf Fishing Tournament.  World’s Largest Bloody Mary Toast. Face painting.  Balloon artists. John’s Pass Seafood and Jazz Holiday.

A wonderful comeback for this event, as it looked like it would be canceled after the 2018 event due to increased site fees.  Congratulations team! 2020 Dates are October 23-25.

Location: John’s Pass Boardwalk

Strut, Wag & Rock – Tampa

October 20, 2018 at Ferg’s Live Tampa. 490 Channelside Dr, Tampa. 2-9 pm

This year’s event will have a 60’s theme – “Grateful Dawg Day” and music will be provided by a Grateful Dead cover band, Uncle John’s Band.

The event will have a 100 dog costume contest, although contestants do not have to dress in the theme.

You can register online and proceeds benefit Vets4Pets Charitable Clinic.

Howl-O-Ween Pet Fest & PAWrade St Petersburg

Bring your best furry friend and push, pull or carry him or her in the most spook-tacular PAWrade of the year.

You can make a float to use in the PAWrade, as long as it is not motorized.

Costumes are judged on both the pet’s and pet human’s costume.

11 am – 3 pm, October 27, 2018 at 3 Daughter’s Brewing, 222 22nd St S, St Petersburg, Fl.

Your pet could be here

Treasure Island Children’s Halloween Spooktacular & Fall Festival

October 26, 2018 at the Treasure Bay Golf and Tennis Facility at 10315 Paradise Boulevard, starting at 6 pm.

Interactive Inflatables, Games, Moonwalks, Train Rides, Fortune Teller, Stiltwaker, Magician, Face Painters, Caricature Artist.

Costume Contest 6:30 pm; Haunted House 7-9 pm.

Event flyer here.

SPCA Tampa Bay Pet Walk

Held in 2018 at Vinoy Park.  Dedicated to raising money to help support the homeless animals of the Tampa Bay community, this event has something for everyone.  Music for the humans, agility courses, costume contents and a doggie water park for your furry friends.

Click here to visit the SPCA Tampa Bay website and learn more.  

It looks like the 2020 walk has been moved to April at the new Pier.

St Petersburg Festival of the Arts

Rather than a single festival, the St Petersburg Festival of the Arts is really a month-long series of artistic events ranging from plays to music to film to dance to wine.

The events are spread out during the month, so click here to be taken to the website and their listing of events and more information.

December St Petersburg Area Events Splashy

December Recurring Events

Gulfport: First Friday Artwalk

St Pete: First Friday

St Pete: Second Saturday Artwalk

Gulfport: Third Saturday Artwalk

Gulfport: Tuesday Fresh Market

St Pete: Saturday Morning Market

St Pete Beach: Corey Avenue Sunday Market

Treasure Island: Open Air Market (Fridays)

Lighted Holiday Boat Parades

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the numerous lighted boat parades that take place along the waterways of Pinellas county.

The exact dates vary from year to year, but they’re generally coordinated and spread out so that they don’t all convene on the same nights.

Following is a listing of the area lighted holiday boat parades.  You can visit the specific event’s website for more details.

  • Gulfport & Boca Ciega Yacht Club’s Lighted Boat Parade – December 8, 2018
  • Treasure Island’s Lighted Boat Parade – December 14, 2018
  • Pass-A-Grille and Vina Del Mar Boat Parade
  • Indian Rocks Beach Holiday Lighted Boat Parade – December 15, 2018
  • Redington Beaches/Indian Shores Holiday Boat Parade
  • Madeira Beach Festival of Lights Holiday Boat Parade – December 8, 2018
  • St Pete Beach Holiday Boat Parade and Winter Festival in the Park – December 7, 2018
  • St Petersburg Annual Rotary Club Illuminated Boat Parade – this event has been canceled for 2018 due to ongoing construction at the Pier.

 

If your explorations are taking you outside of the St Petersburg area during the month of December, Florida by Water publishes a very comprehensive list of boat parades around the state, complete with short descriptions and links to websites. (But ours is more helpful if you’re in just the St Petersburg area.)

Florida By Water Boat Parade List

December Special Events

St Pete Boat Parade & Winter Festival in the Park

You can dress up for this one.  The Parade Viewing Party starts at 6 pm in Horan Park and includes music, hot chocolate, art projects for children and a visit from Santa.  Admission is free.

Horan Park is next to the St Pete Beach Community Center at 7701 Boca Ciega Dr.

Click here for the parade route.

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Jingle Bell Kids’ Fishing Tournament

In 2018 this event is being held on December 1 at John’s Pass Village.  The entry fee is an unwrapped toy and non-perishable food item.  Donations benefit Santa’s Angels and The Kind Mouse.

All fishing myst be done from the dock or beach only. No fishing from boats or kayaks.

See the Angler Amory website for more rules, pictures and details!

Snowfest

No fake snow here! Sixty-four tons of snow will fall on North Straub Park in early December. (Possibly December 1 in 2018)

St Petersburg Annual Rotary Club Illuminated Boat Parade

This event is organized by the Rotary Club, this event moved back to downtown St Petersburg in 2017.  The boat parade starts at 401 Bayshore Dr, NE at 6 pm and the other festivities start at hour earlier, at 5pm.

Gulfport & BCYC’s Holiday Boat Parade

December 8, 2018.  The parade begins at Gulfport Municipal Marina, passing by the Boca Ciega Yacht Club clubhouse, then to Williams Pier, Town Shores, Pasadena Yacht Club, Pasadena Golf Estates and Dolphin Boulevard South, finally visiting Isla del Sol and returning to the BCYC clubhouse for the Post Parade party.

Visit the website to download a boat parade flyer, or to find out how to participate with your boat!  Entry “fees” are unwrapped toys for Operation Santa.

And see below for Gulfport’s Holiday Hoopla, taking place on the same day!

Click here for a link in Paradise News about this event that is in its 33rd year.  Sponsors are needed!

sailbcyc.org/christmasboatparade

Gulfport’s Annual Holiday Hoopla

Holiday Hoopla is a celebration of arts, crafts, foods, holiday music and roving holiday characters.

The festivities run from 10 am to 6 pm on Beach Boulevard in Gulfport’s Waterfront District.  The event benefits Operation Santa and Gulfport families in need.  Come find one-of-a-kind gifts that cannot be found anywhere else!

           Roving Rudolph at Gulfport’s Holiday Hoopla

Historic Old Northeast Candlelight Tour of Homes

This event is being held December 9th in 2018.

Check the HONNA (Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association) Facebook page for details as the event gets closer.

Christmas Market & Parade on St Pete Beach

The parade starts at St Pete Beach City Hall (155 Corey Ave) and heads west down Corey Ave, south on Blind Pass Road, east on 73rd to Bay Street and back to City Hall.

The best parade viewing areas will be along Corey Avenue and parking is available at the Community Center.

This event also includes a visit from Santa and an opportunity to meet with all the Whos in Whoville. Grinch themed crafts, face painting and light refreshments too.

Pass-A-Grille and Vina Del Mar Boat Parade

This small event starts at Merry Pier in Pass-A-Grille. I’ve heard that Santa will make an appearance at The Seahorse, where St Pete firemen will cook burgers and hot dogs outside.  Santa is also available for pictures with the kids.  Luminaries along the sea wall and carolers at Merry Pier.

Festivities start at 5 pm.

Indian Rocks Beach Holiday Lighted Boat Parade

The parade starts at the Holiday Inn Harborside. then goes under the Walsingham Bridge and ending at Harbor Drive North.

Redington Beaches/Indian Shores Holiday Boat Parade

This boat parade goes from the Tom Stuart Causeway to “The Pub” restaurant in Indian shores.  The event starts at 5:45 pm.

New in 2018 is a lighted dock competition, but this would be hard to experience unless you’re in the parade yourself.

Festival of Lights Madeira Beach Boat Parade

The Madeira Beach “Festival of Lights” boat parade begins at ROC Park and ehads down the Intracoastal Waterway to John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk.

The event starts at approximately 6:30 pm and goes until 9 pm.

Check out the event flyer here.

Treasure Island’s Lighted Boat Parade

Treasure Island says its lighted boat parade is like Las Vegas on the water – dazzingly decorated boats of all kinds.  There is a friendly competition for prizes.

The TI Causeway Bridge closes to vehicular traffic during the parade (usually around 7 pm) and stays closed for 30 – 45 minutes to allow the boat parade to pass through.

The best public viewing areas for the Treasure Island Lighted Boat Parade are:

  • 115th Avenue on the Isle of Palms
  • Treasure Island Causeway Bridge
  • Kingfish Drive at John’s Pass (Gator’s Cafe & Saloon)
  • Blind Pass Bridge (between Treasure Island & St Pete Beach)

Click here for a map of the parade route.  It’s an old map but the route hasn’t changed in years.

Corey Avenue Art Festival

December 1 and 2, 2018.  10 am to 5 pm both Saturday and Sunday. 595 Corey Ave in St Pete Beach Fl.

More than 100 talented artisans with jewelry, pottery ceramics, photography, painting, clothing.  There is also an expansive Green Market with plants, orchids, exotic flora, handmade soaps, gourmet spices and other goodies.