SAFETY HARBOR — When the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce took over the city’s annual Seafood Festival three years ago, officials merged the popular, long-running food fest with a juried art show.
The resulting Art and Seafood on the Waterfront event proved to be a huge hit, combining food, art and live entertainment with spectacular views at the city’s picturesque Waterfront Park.
While last year’s festival took place in February right before the coronavirus crisis crippled the nation, this year, organizers were forced to deal with the reality of hosting a large-scale special event during the pandemic. As a result, they opted to move the third annual Art and Seafood on the Waterfront from February to the weekend of May 22-23, with social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols in mind.
“This is the third year of the event, but it went a little sideways due to COVID,” said Melissa Mabe, president of the marketing firm handling the festival. “We got it in under the wire last year, but this year we talked to the (chamber) board and the city and they all thought it was a good idea to change the date to May just to be safe.”
Mabe said the plan to add a juried art show to the 17-year-old Safety Harbor Seafood Festival and make the event “more upscale” was a huge success, and organizers are hoping to build upon the momentum gained over the past two years. “We wanted to take it to the next level and make it a better experience,” she said, noting in addition to the typical grouper sandwich and fish tacos stands the festival features items from local restaurants and top-end food trucks as well as non-seafood fare. “We were looking for something different. We wanted to give people a bigger selection.”
In addition to a wide variety of food options, the festival serves as a showcase for artist and entertainers.
“We have three jurists from Safety Harbor and more than 50 artists from around the country, so it’s very high-end stuff, like a mini-Mainsail or Gasparilla,” she said, citing the immensely popular St. Petersburg and Tampa art events. “And the Black Honkeys are on board to play the main stage, while the community stage will feature everything from marching bands to jazz music, an elementary school rock band and salsa music and everything in between.”
She also noted the festival will offer a children’s art area, interactive art, caricatures, face painting and roving entertainment and the art will include mixed-media, paintings, 3-D artwork, photography and jewelry.
While the lineup and food selection sound great, Mabe said organizers understand COVID will still be a concern for those planning to attend the free event, and they have plans in place to address those concerns. “Our biggest concerns are the food lines and the bathroom lines,” she said. “So, we’ll have signs pointing out which way to exit and enter and how far apart they need to be. We’ll also have staff helping with social distancing and hygiene. Those will be top concerns for us.”
She said they hope the combination of the date change and coronavirus protocols will help keep the festival’s momentum going.
“I think by May people will want to be out and about, and we’re near the water, so that should help,” she said, noting they are still looking for sponsors and volunteers. “If you like seafood, art and entertainment, this is the event for you.”