If you have lived in St. Petersburg as long as I have (more than six decades!) you remember times, unlike current times, when the downtown waterfront was a quiet place on weekends.
An exception was always the weekend that brought the Mainsail Arts Festival. It began in 1976 as a sidewalk arts and crafts show in South Straub Park. It had a clunky name: First Annual Saint Petersburg Sidewalk Arts and Colonial Crafts Festival, to commemorate our nation's centennial. It became Mainsail Arts Festival in 1977 and about a decade later, moved to the larger North Straub Park. Mainsail weekends were one of the few times you couldn't find parking on Beach Drive or the nearby streets and avenues. It relocated again, in 2004, to the even larger Vinoy Park, and by that time the downtown was a lot livelier.
The 250 exhibitors Vinoy Park now accommodates are chosen from about 1,000 applicants by a jury of area arts professionals and volunteers. They work in ceramics, digital art, fibers, glass, graphics, jewelry, metal, mixed media, oil, acrylic, photography, sculpture, watercolor and wood. They come hoping to sell their art and fine crafts but another lure is the $50,000 in awards that include $10,000 for the Best of Show winner. (In the earliest days, there was no money for awards.) Dean A. Porter, director emeritus of the University of Notre Dame Snite Museum of Art, a professor and painter, is this year's judge.
As in the past, Mainsail will have lots of food vendors and live entertainment. And a free Kids Create Art Tent with volunteers from the Junior League of St. Petersburg helping youngsters make fish prints, magical star wands, watercolor butterflies and marble artistry. There are also bean stalks to plant in celebration of Earth Day on Monday. The Young at ARt exhibit features winning student art by Pinellas County students in grades K through 12.
Weather is the nemesis of any outdoor festival, and heavy rain has halted and shortened Mainsail several times but unless safety is threatened (by, say, lightning bolts), the show goes on.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.