DeSoto seafood festival looks for new home in Palmetto

jtate@bradenton.comSeptember 28, 2013 

PALMETTO -- The Da Vinci exhibit and construction for a new downtown hotel has forced the Hernando De Soto Historical Society to consider a new place to host their growing seafood festival, which has been in Bradenton for over 30 years.

Seafood festival chairman Gary Kortzendorf said the possible move to Palmetto could provide the event with needed space.

"I'm excited about Palmetto. There's a little more open space," said Kortzendorf. "Moving to Palmetto, I don't think it will hurt us a bit."

The group could not book the Bradenton Auditorium because the Da Vinci exhibit will be there for six months. And the construction of the Hampton Inn and Suites at the site of the former "Pink Palace" will cost them a stage area for their signature concerts.

"I feel bad that we have to move it, but this is our biggest event and we still have to try and raise as much money as possible," said Kortzendorf.

Organizers proposed to Palmetto city officials a plan using Sutton Park, 1050 6th

St. W., and Lamb Park, 950 6th St. W. Kortzendorf said that the transition to Palmetto should be smooth since the event will still be based in Manatee County.

The society's executive director, Terri Davis, said some events have had to be moved to the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto because of the exhibit.

"The ball will be over in the civic center and some other smaller sit-down dinner events will be over there," said Davis.

She said this year's changes could prove to be longer lasting if the events are a success in Palmetto.

Although Kortzendorf said he understands that the city of Bradenton has a great opportunity with the Da Vinci exhibit, he said he would have liked better notice that they could not use the Bradenton Auditorium for their April 4-6 event.

"It's just unfortunate. I understand the city's side of it and needing more money, but a lot of nonprofits had invites made and now they can't use it," Kortzendorf said.

Dave Gustafson of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority said that staff contacted all people who had booked an event during the time the Da Vinci exhibit will be at the auditorium. He sees this as a way for Palmetto to showcase their city's amenities.

"The De Soto celebration is a Manatee County festival," said Gustafson. "This is an opportunity to utilize an amazing park that they just renovated. I look at it as a positive."

He said the city of Bradenton is happy to partner with Palmetto and thinks that is a reason why the cities in this area have been successful.

"There's always strength in numbers," Gustafson said. "This makes it so everybody gets a piece of the pie. It's all apart of the team that will make the community the best it can be."

Palmetto city officials agree.

They see the society's displacement as an opportunity for them to take advantage of the major event.

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said she is in favor of the festival coming to Palmetto because it will add to the local economy.

"I think everybody's interested in having it come to the city. We've got to explore what would have to be done as far as our ordinance," said Bryant.

The city would have to amend an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol at events. The city's attorney is recommending to design the ordinance to permit alcohol on a case-by-case basis and to make it a special-function permit, Bryant said.

The Palmetto commission plans to continue to discuss the idea during meetings in October. Kortzendorf said he hopes everything works out.

"Once that passes, which I hope it does, we'll be in the planning phases of the event," he said.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter @Janey_Tate.

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