I tried to drive around the exodus of people crossing the Downtown streets but traffic (traffic in Downtown St. Pete? Unthinkable!) kept me in place. I was mere blocks from a festival celebrating local businesses. No way would I give up.
Merely in its 3rd year Localtopia hugely promised to be a party of all things St. Pete. During my few years of living in the ‘Burg I’ve watched this city evolve. I love how much this place has embraced the food, arts, and independent culture. Of course I wanted to celebrate that! So I braved the crowds who had descended upon Downtown for the gorgeous weather, museums and food and made my way to Williams Park where rocking music greeted me before I even stepped onto the grass.
With no set plan I wandered up and down the booths barely reading the map provided to me and instead getting lost in all the colors, laughter, and smells. A few stands flaunted the same businesses as those found in the nearby, large Saturday Morning Market (another cool way to celebrate local business but weekly). Half the stands represented businesses with well-known stores (Mazzarros, The Burg Bar and Grill) next to smaller businesses such as the ‘online and booth only’ Hole Donuts. The outer areas featured artists and their ongoing projects with many having an interactive theme. Additionally the Indie Market was present (an eclectic art and culture market typically found on Central Ave on certain Saturdays). The longest lines led to the semi-truck providing Beer from local breweries (like Cycle and Green Bench).
From the host’s large booth, I purchased raffle tickets from Keep St. Pete Local and dropped it into the bags of interesting vendors in hopes of winning each booth’s displayed prize. (So TBT… I won that Beer basket right?) Shopping local can work up an appetite so I grabbed a Beef and a Spinach Artichoke Empanada from the Latin Lunch Box food truck before settling in front of the grand stage to rock out to the powerful jazzy vocals from the always-awesome Betty Fox Band.
Although the obvious fashion presence leaned on red lipstick, nose studs, plaid and beards, the event was still a melting pot for all people and all ages. The kids enjoyed the interactive art areas while teens browsed stalls for unique items like it was the mall. The elderly still nodded their head to the music and bartered with the vendors. With every square foot conquered by a body or a booth I still don’t know how we all fit into that park. Many times I could not move forward due to the crowd blocking me.
With two hours left to the event it was almost bittersweet to see a handful of vendors placing ‘sold out’ signage. Through Localtopia’s exposure, I circled several vendors on my map for me to chase down later and shop some more.
Perhaps my change request would be in the form of more ‘ethnic’ booths. St. Pete contains the historical Deuces area as well as concentrations of Vietnamese business– all missing. Anyway I can only see next year’s event becoming even bigger, better, and more popular. It certainly outgrew its current location last weekend. Thank you both to the city of St. Petersburg and Keep St. Pete Local for this awesome event and making me more aware of cool businesses to check out. I’m hoping more people storm these local places and in turn that’ll just encourage more growth from that cool scene.
February 7, 2015
St. Petersburg, FL