Independent business alliance and advocacy group Keep Saint Petersburg Local is having a two-year anniversary, and it's celebrating the only way it knows how: by promoting local businesses and the city.
"Localtopia is a celebration of all things local," KSPL founder Olga Bof said of the free event Saturday. "We're trying to change how downtown is perceived."
The much-disparaged Williams Park will be the site for the event, which is expected to draw more than 100 local vendors and 3,000 to 5,000 people.
"We would like for people to look at Williams Park in a completely different light," Bof said. "It was our city's first park. It's in the heart of the community, and it's where people used to gather in the '30s and '40s to hear the bandstand."
The event is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the hours purposefully extended into the evening so guests can experience the park with its twinkling tree lights and downtown backdrop.
A beer garden will feature new St. Pete breweries, Cycle Brewing, Green Bench Brewing and St. Petersburg Brewing Company. Antique and vintage stores like Paper Street Market will have seating areas that can be booked by the hour for $60 as a VIP lounge. A children's corner will feature hands-on crafts and activities, and the bandstand will feature performances by members Bay Street Music Studio and acts such as the Betty Fox Band.
Vendors booths will range from arts and culture to health and wellness, as well as food and services. The organizers are hoping that will expose businesses to new customers.
"Anything we can do to help St. Pete is definitely how we want to do things," says Kurt Cuccaro, owner of Mazzaro's Italian Market, which is sponsoring the event. "We have a lot of out-of-state guests but we also have a lot of local customers and we'd like to give back to them."
The local celebration comes on the heels of a major endorsement for the city. This month, the New York Times mentioned St. Petersburg as one of 52 places to visit in 2014, citing local businesses such as the Hollander Hotel as must-sees. At the same time, KSPL has seen its businesses and customers rally in favor of independently owned enterprises. The organization started with 50 members and now has more than 400 listed under its newly published Members Directory & Guide to St. Petersburg, which the organization hopes will serve as an index for tourists and locals alike.