Annual festivals for many occasions

Sarasota events that feature the arts and sports culture of the city

Sarasota Opera House
Many of the activities of the Sarasota Film Festival and other events will be held at the Sarasota Opera House.

Now that we are approaching peak tourism season and the snowbirds are planning their return, we can look at the upcoming festivals that will attract millions to the area. From the now defunct Ringling International Arts Festival (RIAF) in October to the Englewood Pioneer Days that recently concluded, the area has something for everyone as one festival ends and another begins. Many of these festivals center on the arts. In November last year the Ringling Museum startled the city by announcing plans to halt the RIAF after nine seasons.

Area venues will pick up the slack with a variety of Oktoberfest celebrations hosted locally by breweries that have sprung up in recent years. Mandeville Beer Garden pre-empts the slate with the first on September 29. Select from 11 German beers on tap from 11 AM to midnight. At 2 PM on that Saturday Calusa Brewing in Sarasota offers authentic Bavarian beers and cuisine. Monday, October 1, the Suncoast Oktoberfest has it all for German heritage complete with three German bands, chicken dance, stein hoisting and costume competitions, along with a good variety of beer and food. The fun starts at 11 AM in the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall. Get a true feeling of the Munich atmosphere October 6 at Mr. Beery’s in Sarasota. Save your costume and stein hoisting techniques for more prizes at this festival that starts at 3 PM and extends to midnight. October 27 the fun continues with the Oktoberfest at the British Open Pub in Venice, from 4 to 10 PM and at the two-day downtown Sarasota Oktoberfest starting at 10 AM each day.

The attention then shifts to pumpkin festivals, multi-day events to prepare us for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Many of these festivals have stood the test of time. The 30th Annual Fruitville Grove Pumpkin Fest is held over four consecutive weekends in October, beginning with the first on October 6 and 7. This family-friendly event has many activities for children and a live band starting at 4 PM each day. Extending over three weekends, the Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival offers similar activities for children and adults beginning at 10 AM each date. The festival is in its 27th year at the farm off County Road 675 in Sarasota, ten miles east of Interstate 75.

Lido Shores Umbrella House
Rudolph's Umbrella House in this 2015 renovation

We celebrate some of the best architects in the area in a series of fall keynote speeches, panel discussions and architectural tours. I do sell real estate, after all and the architecture in Sarasota is widely known. SarasotaMOD is a weekend tribute to great local architects such as Paul Rudolph and Tim Seibert. Held each fall, the sixth annual schedule has not been announced by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation. The prestigious Sarasota School of Architecture is attributed with many of the honorees and its mid-century modern architectural designs.

Over the next couple of months one- and multiple-day festivals fill the weekend schedules to celebrate religious themes and holidays. One of the biggest one-day festivals is Fright Night on St. Armands Circle, held every year on the night of Halloween. The highlight of this special evening has been the traditional dance to the song Thriller in the center circle, performed by Sarasota High School drama and theater students. We have been told this is to be their last year so make sure to catch it. It is a Thriller.

One of the biggest festival draws is the Sarasota Chalk Festival, moved five years ago from downtown Sarasota to the Airport Festival Grounds in Venice. Each year professional and amateur artists visit from around the world in competition to create masterpieces using chalk on pavement. The theme this year is Garden of Wonder, four days from November 9-12. Another big draw on those same days using a different medium is the Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition. Sand sculptors from around the nation assemble on the beach to create artwork, visible to the viewing public starting at 10 AM each day. The first Saturday each May, amateurs display their sand sculpting talents in competitions of several categories on the fine sands of Siesta Key beach. The 2019 festival will represent the 47th year of this event.

Marie Selby Lights in Bloom celebration
Lights in Bloom - A month-long annual event to ring in the new year at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

The Lights in Bloom celebration at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a collection of over one million holiday lights to transition us to the new year. This year from December 20 to January 6 special events will be held to enjoy the spirit of the season, and each night the local popular band SoulRCoaster will perform for its guests. There are plenty of holiday festivals and performances that brings us into the new year, catch our upcoming events schedule which lists over 600 events through June 23, 2019.

Advertised as Florida’s finest, the Wine and Food Festival January 24-28, 2019 features a series of classes, winemaking events, food demonstrations and wine tastings. The Forks and Corks Grand Tasting will be held January 27, 2019 in the main courtyard of the Ringling Museum. This popular event can be sold out so set your calendar for November 5 when tickets go on sale. We do love our wine festivals so set the dates of April 4-7, 2019 for the Florida Winefest & Auction. Over the years this benefit auction has funded 85 local children's charities with over $8.5 million.

The Sarasota Film Festival is the Sundance Film Festival of Florida. For a week and a half, April 5-14, 2019 films and special events attract film fans to see selected movies by local and international filmmakers. A huge kickoff film party begins all the activities, typically in the Sarasota Opera House setting. The red carpet parade can have stars made famous by their films portrayed during the festival. Over 200 films are selected with a morning through evening schedule at the Regal Hollywood 20 Theater in downtown Sarasota. In the past other events have been set on Lido Beach or the Ringling Museum.

The largest world whiskey festival in the United States, with over 250 whiskies from around the world, will take place April 10-13, 2019. Whiskey Obsession is a series of panel discussions, master classes, VIP tours, bartender academy on-site sales, cigar pairing and more in downtown Sarasota. A free Whiskey Rocks street party will take place on Main and Lemon the last night of the festival. A portion of the proceeds, in its seventh year, benefit the Child Protection Center of Sarasota.

The very serious, well almost serious, Shark Tooth Festival at the Venice Airport Festival Grounds, April 12-14, 2019 is a collection of vendors and entertainment to accentuate the popular shark teeth hunting activity in Venice. The Gator Creek Band is scheduled to play on Friday night. Venice Beach and the waters offshore contain a vast amount of small to large megalodon size teeth. A walk with a Florida snow shovel along the beach will generally reveal one or two shark teeth, but a conscious effort may uncover many more. A Florida snow shovel has a waist-high handle attached to a metal strainer, a popular item sold in local beach stores.

Classical concert students from around the world audition for a unique opportunity to learn from the elite masters in the annual Sarasota Music Festival, to be held June 3-22, 2019. While students match up with masters each day of the three-week period the public, the masters perform each Thursday in an Artist Showcase concert. Friday nights are highlighted with its Festival Concert series, typically classical masterworks compositions. Saturdays are devoted to full orchestration in the Saturday Symphony series, and may feature a visiting artist. The Rising Star students display their talents in Sunday matinee performances. Jeffrey Kahane is the festival music director. These concerts and lectures are held in the Sarasota Opera House and Holley Hall of the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center.

Powerboats make their way out to the Gulf of Mexico
The Grand Prix Festival is a popular July attraction.

While the classic musical students and visiting artists are packing to return to their homes, the Sarasota PowerBoat Grand Prix Festival boats and fans are pulling into Sarasota. This nationally televised race event on July 7, 2019 will be broadcast on CBS, with a rebroadcast on July 22. The AquaX and Powerboat qualifying races on Saturday with finals on Sunday are best seen off the Lido Beach shores in the Gulf of Mexico. Now in its 35th year, the festival features the Bob Rizi Memorial Golf Tournament, car show, boat and PWC fun run, comedy night at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, swimsuit contest, motorcycle charity ride and plenty of parties in downtown Sarasota and Centennial Park where the boats will be on display. The fireworks show on July 4 is one of the festival highlights.

For two weeks in August, Venice is alive with the Venice Cabaret Festival, short-run live performances in a black box theater. Local performers are on display with a series of plays and tributes to such notables as Frank Sinatra, sold-out performances in consecutive years by John Lariviere recreation of works from the Sinatra Songbook. The 2019 festival will be the seventh year of this series.

9-11 Flag Memorial
9-11 Memorial - Longboat Key remembers 9-11 with 2,977 flags lined the entire 11-mile length along Gulf of Mexico Drive, one flag for each victim. President George W. Bush stayed at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, Longboat Key, on September 10, 2001 and attended an event at Booker Elementary School in Sarasota when he was informed of the attack.

There are many arts, seafood and music weekend festivals in Sarasota throughout the year. Check our list of upcoming events to note which you might like to attend. There are also more somber events, including those tomorrow as a memorial to those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The Victims and Fallen Heroes Memorial Ceremony in Patriots Park, Venice, and the Tribute to Heroes Memorial Service on the Riverwalk Great Lawn, Bradenton, are two of them. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

 

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