The SouthShore Seafood & Arts Festival this weekend will combine two of southern Hillsborough County’s largest festivals.
For the last 31 years, the Ruskin Seafood Festival took place in November. And for the last 27 years, the Apollo Beach Manatee Festival of the Arts took place in March. But each event took nearly seven months to orchestrate, SouthShore Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Davis said.
“It was becoming overwhelming to plan both of these events, and it’s a lot on our businesses,” she said. “We have fun doing it, but once we finish one, it’s time to start planning again.”
Organizers combined their favorite elements from each event — and added a few extras, including a children’s creativity area — and the festival will now span two days. It will take place at E. G. Simmons Park, 2401 19th Ave. NW, from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The festival will feature live bands, high-flying acrobats, food trucks and more than 120 vendors. Admission costs $2 per car to Simmons Park and $5 for each adult. Children under 12, veterans and active military are free.
Davis said the event will be a destination for those looking to do early holiday shopping and offer free activities for children.
“I don’t like to be at events where kids cant do anything because of money,” she said.
Organizers anticipate the event will draw crowds of about 30,000, larger than either of individual festivals.
“It’s a reflection of the growth we’ve made,” Davis said.
Unincorporated southern Hillsborough County has seen some of the fastest growth rates in the region over the past decade. Ruskin alone saw about a 5 percent increase in both population and median income between 2016 and 2017, according to the American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. As businesses adapt to that growth, Davis said, and newer residents change the fabric of the neighborhood, the chamber hopes to preserve some of the traditions of the area.
“It’s important to be part of the change that’s going on and at the same time we have the things we love that makes our community what it is,” she said. “We’re going to hold onto those, keeping those things rich and the heritage rich.”