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Sideshows distract from St. Petersburg's real issues

As county fairs are popping up across the landscape, residents of the Sunshine City have a front-row seat to a three-ring circus. The dramas playing out in other municipalities have nothing on St. Petersburg. There are wild animals — a rhesus monkey that been on the loose for two years. The latest saga has trappers talking about trying to entice the lonely guy back into captivity by bringing in a female. If only they could find one. Then there's the sideshow between the city and the Tampa Bay Rays with the threat of a lawsuit, just to keep it interesting, for our neighbors across the pond in Hillsborough. But the sideshow of the week is the proposed ordinance that cracks down on human billboards.

It has become obvious that this city prefers conformity.

First officials banned the homeless. It was a move to give downtown business owners relief because those people were hurting business.

Next in line were the panhandlers. Remember, they were eyesores — especially to drivers who had the great misfortune of being at a red light at one of the city's major intersections.

Now city staffers have concocted an ordinance that targets the dancing, twirling and sign-waving workers whose sole purpose is to draw attention to a nearby business.

A proposed ordinance would require human billboards to stand still while hawking, making dancing, spinning or twirling illegal.

Which of the great visionaries in City Hall came up with this one?

Surely there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Distracted motorists are far more dangerous than the human billboards that are in the city's crosshairs. They're on the sidewalks, not the medians.

Considering all the other issues out there, dancing sign holders should take a backseat to more meatier issues like the growing discourse among voters who don't like the Lens, the city's replacement for the Pier.

Thankfully, someone had the good sense to suggest taking another look at this ordinance. On Thursday, City Council voted to revisit the issue at a Nov. 1 public meeting.

Here's hoping this measure is filed away for good the next time it comes before the council.

• • •

The 41st annual Circus McGurkis, a community fair put on by the peace-loving Quakers, is set for Saturday at Lake Vista Park in St. Petersburg.

This year's theme is "Peace — make it happen, your vote is not enough."

A new wrinkle this year features 20 educational workshops. They range from topics on community radio to raising backyard chickens.

One of my favorite features of the fair is the group of craft booths nestled under a canopy of trees in the park.

The free fair runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lake Vista Park is at 1401 62nd Ave. S.

The event's organizers say vending opportunities are still available and nonprofit space is free. For information on the workshops and vending, visit or call (727) 346-8598.

• • •

Someone once said the substance of a man is so important.

For the team at the Studio@620, those words rang true days ago upon learning of the passing of one of their own.

Samuel L. Harrington Jr. was not an artist or artistic director. But in his brief tenure, he affected the lives of countless people in the arts community who had the great fortune to meet him.

Last week, a diverse group of artists, business owners and staffers gathered at the Studio for a celebration of Sam's spirit and a remembrance of his impact on all who came in contact with him. Many arrived dressed in their Sunday best, because that's what Sam would've done.

An announcement of the event touted: "Bring a smile and shine your shoes, 'cause this is Sam's party."

Harrington's celebration was symbolic in that the Studio is uniquely one of the few spaces where arts and community are one.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.

Sideshows distract from St. Petersburg's real issues 10/20/12 [Last modified: Sunday, October 21, 2012 9:27am]
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