ANNA MARIA – In its second year since returning after a hiatus due to COVID-19, the 21st Bayfest celebration last Saturday offered something for the entire family.
A substantial portion of Pine Avenue in Anna Maria was closed for most of the day to make room for vendors offering a little bit of everything. This family-friendly event has been a perennial favorite for both locals and visitors for two decades, and 2022 delivered on the promise of fun.
“I love the Dr. Dave band, and was so happy to hear they’d be headlining again this year,” said Marty Haskins, a Bradenton resident who says he never misses Bayfest. “The food is fantastic and I love the fact they relax the rules and let you enjoy a few beers while you rock out to your favorite band with the backdrop of some of the most beautiful water on the planet.”
Haskins wasn’t alone in taking advantage of the ability to shop, eat and drink on Pine Avenue during the festivities. It was all smiles and dancing in the street as the Trevor Bystrom Band, Lisa and the Island Hoppers, the Karen and Jimmy Band and the Dr. Dave Band brought unique sounds that had something for everyone. There was also plenty of distinctive Island art, jewelry and specialty items that would be difficult to find in the same place outside of an event like Bayfest.
Many people said that this year’s crowd seemed to be a bit less than in previous years, despite the Island being busier than normal for October due to Hurricane Ian rerouting many vacationers who had planned to stay farther south. There are also many people affected by Ian who have come to the Island while cleanup efforts continue at their homes. Many speculated that the road closure on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach may have had something to do with lower attendance. Vendors reported slower sales than last year, and there was ample room to roam without being enveloped by a crowd.
“We’ve been raising money for our Campaign for Ukraine and selling Cuban sandwiches from our booth here, but we haven’t had to call the restaurant to send more food since brunch,” said Bob Slicker, owner of Slicker’s Eatery in Cortez. “There’s definitely not the crowd we expected, but everybody’s having fun, and that’s what’s important.”
Despite a smaller crowd than in years past, festivalgoers were having fun and spending time with friends and family on a beautiful day. There were a couple of rain sprinkles, but they were kind enough to cast a rainbow directly over the stage and the City Pier late in the afternoon, a photo op that many took advantage of.
“We’re down here visiting from Oklahoma City. We have great friends that live here and we just love spending time with them,” said Jake Hodges, who was visiting with his wife and two young children. “We love how relaxed and laid back this Island is, and this event is really nice. It’s our first Bayfest.”
Hodges’ daughter, Hattie, said she loves the beach, a sentiment echoed by her brother, Everett. Police reported no incidents, just a day of fun at Bayfest, hosted by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.