ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of Fine Arts at one point became so crowded Saturday, admissions were closed for 20 minutes.
A blockbuster show?
No, free museum day.
The museum was one of six cultural venues in St. Petersburg participating in ArtsAlive, organized by the city, in which admissions were waived for one day.
Ann Wykell, manager of cultural affairs for the city, said admissions were two to six times higher than normal at all locations.
David Connelly, Museum of Fine Arts director of communications, said almost 5,700 people visited on a day that typically draws 1,200. The Dali Museum had about 6,400 visitors, better than six times the usual count.
More than 2,000 visited the Holocaust Museum, "which is about what we total over the course of several weeks," said Andrea Moore, public relations coordinator. Great Explorations — the Children's Museum, Sunken Gardens and the St. Petersburg Museum of History also participated.
An adult who went to all six attractions would have saved up to $68, but don't expect free museum day to become more than a once-yearly event.
"The (sales) numbers were very good in our store and cafe, but they by no means made up for the loss of revenue from ticket sales," Connelly said. Normally, the per-person average spent in the gift shop is $3.11; on Saturday, the average was only 92 cents.
"We see this as a chance to reach people who may never come, who don't want to make the investment or legitimately can't afford to come."
Lennie Bennett can be reached at (727) 893-8293 or