MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — The John’s Pass Seafood Festival was a no-go this year due to Pinellas County COVID-19 restrictions, but organizers are still helping businesses rebound during the pandemic, by holding the John’s Pass Art Weekend.
It’s a similar event, but without all of the seafood food tents. Instead, it's tents from vendors who are selling clothing, art, etc. There are also several food trucks, and of course, all of the storefront restaurants and businesses that are open in John’s Pass Village year-round.
“We are spaced out 6-feet apart. Normally I have 120 vendors, this year I have 93,” said Sonny Flynn, President of the John’s Pass Village Association.
In order to keep people from congregating maskless around seafood tents, they decided, this year, to keep the food restricted to restaurants as well as outdoor seating near the food trucks.
“This event is huge to the village. This is, 50 percent of our revenue goes to marketing the village all year round, and 50 percent goes to our 5 charities every year,” said Flynn.
Both the John’s Pass Village Association and the businesses in the village knew that the show needed to go on in order to help businesses recuperate some of what they’ve lost.
“It’ll recuperate some of them, it’ll help some of them just even get to a place where we can buy some product and invest on the back end so that we’re set up for 2021,” said Stephanie Berry, Owner of Beach Brain, a storefront business in John’s Pass Village.
They're hopeful the event will bring foot traffic back into businesses and provide a place for vendors from across the state to showcase their products.
“It’s rough. Many of the shows have been canceled on the fly. You think you’re going next month to a show, and they call and say ‘I’m sorry, we can’t do it this year,’” said Jill Perry, Owner of DC’s Etched Glass Decals, a vendor who traveled from South Florida for the event.
John’s Pass businesses are not only feeling the effects of the pandemic, but also the effects of an ever-increasing sand-blocking issue we’ve been following for months.
“The sand issue is, unfortunately, only continuing to grow,” said Capt. Dylan Hubbard, Owner of Hubbard’s Marina.
But they’re making baby steps, as the county-requested USF study began early this month to find out how to fix it, to help bring back waterfront property near Hubbard’s Marina.
“It’s 6 months long, so it’s a long wait to find out what we need to get done,” said Hubbard.
Until then, they’re happy to see more people in the village stopping by for shopping, fishing tours and food.
The John's Pass Village Association plans to bring back the John's Pass Seafood Festival next year. They say they'll be holding it in January from here on out.
John’s Pass Art Weekend runs from Friday through Sunday at 6 p.m.