PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Two of the largest events in Pinellas County are making a comeback. The Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach and the St. Petersburg MLK Dream Big Parade.
It comes after the Sugar Sand Festival had to cancel two years prior.
“We actually had to cancel 2020 and 2021 so bringing it back for 2022, we are overdue and overwhelmed with excitement. We are so excited to bring the sand back to life out here and bring some energy and fun back out onto Clearwater Beach,” said organizer Angela Benak.
The festival returns to Clearwater Beach from April 8 to 24, 2022 for its eighth and biggest year yet with the theme “SANDimals, An Animal Adventure.”
Organizers of the St. Pete MLK Parade, the largest in the Southeast United States, are also announcing their event will return on January 17.
“We’ve got over 15 bands coming in. College bands, high school bands,” explained organizer Anthony Hart. Last year the parade went virtual. “It’s very fulfilling knowing that we are getting back to normalcy but then again we still have to be careful and safe,” he added.
The pandemic has forced organizers to be extremely flexible knowing safety protocols could change again in the months ahead leading up to the events.
Both events are working on COVID mitigation plans, including how they’ll keep thousands of people spaced apart.
Combined the two events bring 250,000 people to Tampa Bay and generate more than $35 million dollars in economic impact.
The events, and others like it, help small businesses like Chief’s Creole Café in South St. Pete.
“It gives us a chance to let people know there is a restaurant on this corner and there is viable business still here and helps with new customers who may walk in and try us,” explained owner Kenneth Roberts.
Above all, organizers say they’re anxious to return to some sense of normalcy.
“The phone calls, the emails, the messages we have been getting have been wonderful. People have been anxiously awaiting this to come back,” Benak added.
The Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival will stretch over 17 days. General admission to the sculpture exhibit will be $12 per person and free for children 3 years old and younger.
There are also discounted tickets for military personnel, police officers, firefighters, teachers, and healthcare workers for $10 each on “Frontline Fridays,” which are April 8, 15 and 22.
The MLK Parade will be held at 11 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2022. Organizers are also hosting a Tropicana Field Fun Day and a Heritage Festival.