OLDSMAR — For several decades, many Pinellas County communities have hosted a monthly Friday night street festival, starting with St. Pete’s First Friday celebrations in the 1990s and continuing today with similar events in Safety Harbor (Third Friday) and Tarpon Springs (First Friday).
Now you can add Oldsmar to the list of municipalities blocking one Friday off the calendar each month as the Oldsmar City Council recently voted 5-0 in favor of waiving application fees for the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce’s proposed Second Friday events, scheduled to take place on State Street from 6-10 p.m. on July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10, Oct. 8, Nov. 12, and Dec. 10.
“The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce proposes a new series of street festivals, which are going to be known as Oldsmar Second Friday, beginning this July,” City Manager Al Braithwaite said when the agenda item was read on June 15. “These festivals will be an opportunity to promote Oldsmar businesses and will consist of various vendors along a portion of State Street between Park Boulevard and Washington Avenue.”
Braithwaite noted the free festivals would include car shows and food and drink vendors.
The decision comes at a time when the chamber is starting to expand its special events profile — the council earlier in the evening agreed to transfer operation of the annual Celebrate Oldsmar festival to the chamber. City leaders are also working to develop the long-awaited downtown district.
Prior to unanimously agreeing to waive $9,150 in event fees and $240 in utility costs, council members weighed in on the newest addition to the city’s special events calendar.
“I’m excited about it,” Dan Saracki said. “I think this is a great idea. I love it.”
“I’m very excited,” Mayor Eric Seidel echoed.
Steve Graber said he’s looking forward to seeing people get used to coming to State Street for events as the city moves forward with the Oldsmar Town Center project. “Get them used to coming up here, (then) we start getting some stuff moving downtown, I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he said.
With that, the item passed by a 5-0 vote.
Following the decision, Doug Bevis, former Oldsmar mayor and current chamber official, said they’ve been working on the Second Friday plans for about a year, but the timing was off due to the coronavirus crisis.
“We’ve been working on it for a while, but COVID obviously pushed it back,” he said by phone, joking they checked the county calendar and they “saw the second Friday of the month was free, so we grabbed it.”
Bevis said the event would consist of live music, a car show and upwards of 40 food and merchandise vendors, including but not limited to chamber members.
“Our pitch is if you become a chamber member, you get a 20% discount on the vendor application fee,” Bevis said. “But our thinking was if you limit it to just local businesses or chamber members, you’re missing out on the traveling vendors who bring their own products and want to pay to be there.”
Proceeds from alcohol sales will go to the Holiday Sharing Fund and the Education Foundation, he said.
As mayor, Bevis was one of the driving forces behind redeveloping the downtown district, including the planned construction of a mixed-use development on 10 acres of vacant land next to City Hall.
With the addition of Second Fridays, along with the recent opening of the Oldsmar Tap House, he believes they are laying the groundwork for what will someday become a thriving downtown district.
“Part of the plan was to start to pitch the idea of this being a normal thing here with the downtown coming,” Bevis said. “It’s empty now, but you can kind of envision what it could look like. Second Friday could be like a pre-party. We’re like the warm-up act for the main event.”