MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — It’s a festival sure to make your mouth water! The John’s Pass Seafood Festival is in full swing on Madeira Beach and business owners hope the fun festivities raise awareness about a crucial issue impacting their livelihood.
At the 40th annual John’s Pass Seafood Festival you’ll find mountains of steaming seafood, drinks served up with style and music that propels you to the concrete dance floor.
Madeira Beach Commissioner Doug Andrews says it’s something he always looks forward to.
“Frankly it’s one of the best times of the year,” he said with a smile. “When this started 40 years ago it was like 20 people around having a cookout. That’s how it kinda got started and it’s just gotten bigger and better.”
The festival was scaled back in 2021 because of the pandemic, but now it’s back to nearly all of its glory.
From Thursday through Sunday Jan. 20 - 23, there will be hundreds of vendors selling delicious food, arts and crafts and other items.
Ramon Hernandez of Pipo’s Cuban Café says it comes at a perfect time for businesses.
“I think everyone can use some good business right now. Luckily there is tourism on the beach and that keeps us alive but everyone needs a good boost,” he said.
There will be live music every night until 9 p.m.
Business owners at John’s Pass hope the seafood festival will call attention to another issue that’s now threatening the future of their businesses: sand intrusion into the Pass.
“If I could have a festival here every month to shed light on this I would do it,” Mayor of Madeira Beach John Hendricks explained.
Sand continues to fill into the pass. Just recently, Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina says one of his boats ran aground on the main channel causing $50,000 in damage.
“That was in the main channel in what’s supposed to be the safe area for boats. The sand issue has become very pronounced. People are walking around John’s Pass and they’re like holy moly this is a big problem,” Hubbard added.
Business owners and community leaders in John’s Pass are begging county and state leaders for help with funding to dredge out the pass and to find longer-term solutions to keep their businesses alive.
The sand intrusion issue has become so severe that Mayor Hendricks and Hubbard say pipes that are supposed to help with drainage are hidden by the sand.
“If it rains on Saturday John’s Pass will be flooded and that’s because of this sand issue,” Hubbard said.
“As this sand continues to encroach down the boardwalk, we’re going to lose these boats, go out of business or go somewhere else,” Hendricks added.
This weekend’s festival will highlight one of the most well-loved attractions in Pinellas County and business owners now say they are fighting to keep it that way.
“We need some help,” Hendricks plead.
You can find out more about the Seafood Festival, including a list of vendors and live music performances, at www.eventeny.com/events/40thannualjohnspassseafoodfestival-1842.