Last year, the party was scaled back significantly, re-billed as the “John’s Pass Arts Weekend” and missing key ingredients: beer, bands, and seafood.

MADEIRA BEACH — Another beach bash that had been muffled by the coronavirus pandemic is back at full strength, with the John’s Pass Seafood Festival invading the Madeira Beach fishing village and tourist center Jan. 20-23.

“We’re excited to be moving forward,” said Sonny Flynn, head of the John’s Pass Merchants Association. “Everything’s a ‘go.’”

The annual event, one of the most popular attractions along the Gulf beaches, has drawn as many as 250,000 people over its long weekend. Last year, the party was scaled back significantly, re-billed as the “John’s Pass Arts Weekend” and missing key ingredients: beer, bands, and seafood.

“We’re having everything this year,” Flynn said. “Three stages of entertainment, beer, food, vendors. Everybody’s excited.”

While the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant may be daunting, Flynn — owner of the Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center at the Pass — said safety is top of mind.

“We want everybody to have fun, but stay healthy,” she said. “Obviously, we’ll have signage out for people to please wash their hands, and we’re taking precautions with vendors as well, making sure they’re following safety protocols.”

Volunteers will be roaming the grounds promoting social distancing. “I can’t believe we’re still doing that, but it needs to be done,” Flynn said.

That means the “World’s Largest Bloody Mary Toast,” a highlight of previous events, won’t happen this year.

But more than 100 vendors are on board. The event is a major fundraiser for the merchants’ association as well as local charities. Last year’s event raised roughly $16,000 for charity, about half the haul of a typical year.

Organizers have stepped up the entertainment aspect for the festival’s 40th anniversary, with a main stage, the Bell Tower stage at the Boardwalk, and the Bamboo Beach Bar all hosting bands.

Local favorites the Torpedoes, Big Brother, HorsesWild and U2 cover band U2.0 are all on the bill. For a full schedule, see johnspassseafoodfest.com.

The seafood fest joins other events including the Sanding Ovations sand-sculpting competition in Treasure Island and the Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs in returning to their full glory after scaled-back or canceled productions in 2020-21.

In 2020, the seafood fest rescheduled from the traditional last-October weekend to January in an attempt to outrun the pandemic. It may not have worked, but organizers realized they were onto something — glorious weather, rather than downpours, greeted the January event.

“It worked out real well last year,” Flynn said. “The people that are in town from up north, it’s not cold for them. It’s our chance to wear boots and jackets, and they’re all in shorts.”

If you go

What: 40th annual John’s Pass Seafood Festival

Where: John’s Pass Village, Madeira Beach

When: Thursday, Jan. 20, 3 p.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday Jan. 21-22, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 23, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Admission: Free

Info: johnspassseafoodfest.com