ST. PETERSBURG — Just before Loverboy took the stage — the '80s, feathered-hair band behind Lovin' Every Minute of It — Paul Kreuzer and his wife, Sondra, spotted shelter from the sun near the sound booth in front of the stage.
Paul, 53, wore a leather fedora and in certain shadows bore the uncanny profile of Bruce Willis.
He and his wife were both unaware that the annual Taste of Pinellas, held this year at Albert Whitted Park, had been held for 26 years; that it had previously been at the much larger Vinoy Park; or that last year it was canceled due to low attendance in years past.
"Right now the shade is important. This is an expensive commodity," Paul said.
Paul is originally from Buffalo, N.Y., and perhaps has not built the tolerance for sweating from every gland as some Floridians have, so he complained about the heat and the lack of shade at the park.
Paul met his wife in high school about the time Loverboy formed, and on his phone he had a picture of the two from those years back, her sitting on his lap.
This year's Taste of Pinellas seemed to go off without a problem. After the hiatus, businessman Bill Edwards helped bring back the concert and food experience, which donates its proceeds to All Children's Hospital.
By 6 p.m. the park was about one-fourth full, but more were expected to arrive later for the headliner, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.
Aside from rumbles about parking being overcrowded because of an event at the Mahaffey Theater, and the sweat-inducing heat — which no one seemed to hold Edwards personally responsible for — most everyone seemed to relish the return of Taste of Pinellas.
About 20 local vendors showed up. They cooked food and served drinks beneath white tents: Stefano's Gelato, The Oyster Bar, Island Flavors and Tings Jamaican food, and three watermelon queens wearing gowns, crowns and sashes passing out slices of watermelon.
"They're free y'all," said Florida Watermelon Queen Meagan Morgan to passersby.
Just a few booths up, Helena Josephs, owner of Island Flavors and Tings, worried about the slow traffic past her tent. Her restaurant has participated for the past 11 years — except, of course, last year — and she said it has always done really well.
She was located toward the rear of the venue near the portable toilets, and perhaps later in the night when the beer made its way down people's stomachs they would not be able to pass up her Jamaican jerk chicken.
"I'm hoping tomorrow is better," she said.
Most of the pre-sale tickets, which cost $25 at the door, sold for today's concert. The headliners are KC and the Sunshine Band, and the Blues Brothers, starring Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.