Editors update: A Tampapalooza coordinator reached out to me saying this “first day was far less than ideal.” However “we have made some changes” for Sunday’s event to go “more smoothly” and “enjoyably.” I’m adding this hopeful comment to the top of this post– it’s always a good thing when organizers realize mistakes and work to change them instead of acting pompous and ignorant. Thank you for reading and reaching out.


Attending free local events in their ‘inaugural’ year is always a gamble because this is the time to make mistakes so you learn from them in the future. Looking back, I wonder if the mistake of Tampapalooza was having one in the first place. But let me rewind. There was no way this Tampa Bay lover could say ‘no’ to a free festival promising to celebrate “everything local in Tampa!” With humid heat and no predicted rain, I armed myself with a frozen water bottle, sunscreen and floppy hat.

Wing of the event
This is one wing of the event… notice how the crowds aren’t even approaching the booths?

Before I even stepped foot in the event, an immediate dislike was planted by the parking admission. While a parking cost was never mentioned on the official website, both Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Times online yelled FREE parking at the event. $6 wasn’t going to kill me, but I had been severely misled.

Still I pressed on into the Fairgrounds. Tampapalooza occupied an area the size of a football field. While that’s awesome and offers lots of potential, there were not enough vendors present to fill that large area. What resulted were lots of empty space and very thin crowds. There were whole groups of vendors the crowds wouldn’t even approach because of the strange layout.

Cigar City Area
Cigar City Brewing had a prime spot under this large tent

There was a running theme throughout the event and it was obvious from the moment I walked in to the moment I exited the gates… the lack of celebrating “Tampa Bay.” There were a few nods to Tampa’s pirate-crazed celebrations as a few costumed characters walked or stilt-walked around. Cigar City Brewing even had a great location under a large, shaded tent… but nothing else screamed Tampa Bay pride. Did the birds from Busch Gardens not want to attend? Were the student performers from the USF too shy? Did the armored vehicles from McDill Air Force Base not want to get touched? And the worst one… not a single known Tampa restaurant was present like the Columbia or Taco Bus— I know I’ve seen them sell food on the streets before. At least an appearance by Gigi’s Cupcakes represented a Tampa store with a booth.


The stage area

Instead half the vendors were similar to the smaller stalls you see at the State Fair selling Kettle Corn or Italian Sausages. Big sponsors Cricket and Mazda both had large booths including a test-driving area for Mazda’s VIP ticket holders. Other vendors weren’t Tampa Bay locals but visitors from elsewhere in the state such as Calypso Salt and Soaps from Davenport, FL (I’ve never seen handmade soap this artistic looking so I bought a couple). All these vendors probably would’ve sold more if they had moved to one of several Farmer’s Markets in the Bay area today.

At least the local talent on the stage was entertaining. Young Francesca belted out original and cover songs while playing an acoustic guitar. Another band (their name escapes me) rocked out. Unfortunately the beating sun kept everyone far away from the stage. I tried to get a schedule of performances but the vendors I asked and even some volunteers in the children’s tent had no idea.

Inflatable playground
Part of the inflatable playground

Perhaps families with small kids were better off. An entire corner of Tampapalooza was filled with an inflatable playground. Under the ‘Children’s Tent’ markers, poster paper, and wind spinners were thrown around and left for the children to get creative with. None of this interested me.

After pushing two hours there (I had to justify paying $6 to enter a place easily completed in less than an hour) I left. If Tampapalooza ever decides to return, please move to a more welcoming location like Curtis Hixon Park. And please bring more Tampa-based representatives and entertainment. There was barely anything for an adult to do except shop—I could’ve just shopped St. Pete’s Farmer’s Market for that. Instead of a winning celebration, this was just a Tampapa-lose-a.

To view my photos from the event, just click on any of the photos above or right here.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shawn Thomas says:

    I agree with some of your points regarding vendors, but I think you were way off on the overall critique of this event. It’s obvious you were miffed for having to pay $6 to park. But hey…isn’t that Tampa too? 🙂 I took my family, and we had a great time.

    That’s the problem these days. Somebody gets a free blog and thinks they’ve got something important to say. Get a domain, WordPresspaloser. 🙂

    1. Pyra-Danny says:

      I’m glad your family had a great time– did you have young children in your party? I truly think family’s with kids would’ve enjoyed this event better than those without.
      Regarding paying for parking: I never mind paying for admission or parking however if you look at the links above for Visit Tampa Bay and TBO (both trusted media sources for this area) they mention the free parking.
      This is just Tampapalooza’s first event after all so if they make it to year two, I hope they REALLY make it a celebration of Tampa as opposed to another generic, family-day type of event.

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