Some of the biggest names in the Hillsborough County art scene are coming together next month for the 26th annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts and Music offering a weekend of entertainment for the whole family.

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

The 26th annual Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts will take place at E.G. Simmons Park on March 10 and 11.

Hosted by the SouthShore Chamber, the Firehouse Cultural Center and the SouthShore Arts Council, the festival will feature work for viewing and purchase from approximately 100 artists from around the country, a large children’s area, entertainment and food.

“The festival is an innovative showcase of fine arts and fine crafts which draws talent from across the country,” said Mike Parker, with the SouthShore Arts Council. “Our exhibitors’ area offers visitors the opportunity to meet and interact with artists, to view their works and purchase art from the individual that created it.”

The Firehouse Cultural Center is hosting the Kids Activity Tent for the second year in a row, and according to Executive Director Georgia Vahue, this year’s tent will have a sand castle theme.

“We plan to kick our decor up a few more notches,” said Vahue, who expects 3,000 people to use the children’s area of the festival. “There will be a number of fun and creative art activities ranging from sand art bottles, sand paper and shell prints to flying fish art.”

Children can also enjoy a pirate offering balloon art and the Ruskin Library will host a reading and storytelling area. Projects are designed for children in kindergarten to seventh grade, although younger visitors can do the crafts with parents.

The entertainment stage will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday with new country artist Matt Billor. He will be followed by the Harrison Jazz Ensemble at 11:15 a.m., southern rock artists Dark Horse at 12:30 p.m. and Cosmic Pear will hit the stage with their 60s and 70s music at 2 p.m. Damon Fowler will close out Saturday’s line-up at from 3:30-5 p.m. with his blue show. On Sunday, John Puckett, a singer guitarist, will hit the stage at 10 a.m., followed by the Hummingbirds’ Americana music at 11:30 a.m.. The popular country sounds of Willow Hill will follow at 1:30 p.m. and the Selwyn Birchwood Band will close out the event from 3:30-5 p.m. with their R&B set.

“The Manatee Arts Festival has been an essential part of South Shore’s history for many years, attracting large numbers,” said Vahue. “Over the last few years, the event has become a lovely day’s outing for families. Our goal is to have visitors have fun, enjoy the arts and the entertainment and go home smiling.” Food and drinks will also be available for purchase at the event.

The E.G. Simmons Conservation Park is located at 2401 19th Ave. N.W. in Ruskin.
For information, contact the chamber at 645-1366 or visit www.southshorechamberofcommerce.org. To contact the Firehouse Cultural Center, call 645-7651 or visit www.firehouseculturalcenter.com.