By Kate Quesada

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts and the 2017 event promises to be better than ever with food and entertainment for the whole family.

Taking place at Ruskin’s E.G. Simmons Park on Saturday and Sunday, March 11 and 12 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., the event is expected to draw 10,000 people from all over the Tampa Bay.

For the first time this year, the SouthShore Chamber is partnering with local art organizations the Firehouse Cultural Center and SouthShore Arts Council on the cultural aspects of the festival.

“We have no doubt that this event is going to be the best ever,” said Southshore Chamber Executive Director Melanie Rimes. “We are used to planning events, but our area of expertise is not art. With the art organizations taking the lead on those aspects, it is a perfect fit and is sure to be a festival to remember.”

In addition to 100 artist booths, many of which are new to the festival, there will be a large children’s area sponsored, organized and run by the Firehouse Cultural Center. The area, which is free and according to Rimes has doubled since last year, will offer fish prints, color sandcastle sculptures, design boards, manatee drawing horses, story-telling from the Ruskin Library, sun prints, face painting and balloon art from Jumbo the Pirate.There will also be art work on display from local schools and Suncoast Youth Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, will have a hands on kids area.

The entertainment stage will showcase music from Emily Joy at 11 a.m. on Saturday, followed by live demonstrations from Tampa Bay Martial Arts Academy at 12 Noon. At 1 p.m. there will be a dance performance by Armetta’s Gan Jete Studio of Dance in Apollo Beach and 1:45 p.m. will offer a concert from Opera Tampa. The entertainment for the day will end at 3 p.m. with Victoria Ginty and Ladyhawke. On Sunday, the music will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with Luis Garcia from Rumba Brothers, Latin Jazz and Flamenco Fusion, with Pinpoint Jazz following at 12:45 p.m. The Damon Fowler Band will take the stage at 3:15 p.m.

Cold beer and wine will be available at three locations throughout the event and food will be available from Buttman BBQ, Mullet Shack, C&S Specialties, Stanford Jerky, Bearcakes, Kona Ice, OI Kentucky Concessions, Skoops, TLC Concessions, Poppin Don’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and more.

“This festival is unique because there is something for everyone,” said Rimes. “We involve everyone, not only the arts community and not only the chamber business community. Everyone can be there.”
 For more information, contact the chamber at 645-1366 or visit

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.