PALMETTO -- By the numbers at least, the DeSoto Seafood Festival's first ever move to Palmetto seems to have been an unqualified success.
Although the exact attendance won't be known for several days, an estimate is that the three-day festival, which wrapped up Sunday, drew 30,000 visitors to Palmetto's Sutton and Lamb parks, Gary Kortzendorf, chairman of the festival, said Sunday.
"We won't know exactly for three or four days," said Kortzendorf of the festival, which had been in downtown Bradenton for years until this year.
But there's another way to estimate attendance and that's through what people tossed in the 96-gallon plastic refuse cans the City of Palmetto placed in 70 spots for the festival, said Charlie Hall, a supervisor with the private company, Waste Management.
Hall said Sunday that the festival generated 13 tons of garbage, which
he said was consistent with 10,000 people per day. The 70 huge cans had to be emptied at a frantic pace, Hall added.
"Our refuse team was amazing," Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groove-Bryant said Sunday, putting the garbage men right up there with Friday headliner Travis Tritt, Saturday main stage star Vanilla Ice and Sunday's AC/DC Tribute band, Highway to Hell, as reason's why people left the festival happy.
"The cans were never overflowing," said the mayor, who also credited a family atmosphere with open space to picnic, ample parking and no lines with 20 food vendors operating out of 32 booths.
Garbage men rarely get a passing mention, let alone credit for the success of an event, but the mayor said they are a symbol of how Palmetto worked as a team to prepare to host the festival for the first time, which she hopes will return next year.
The public noticed.
"I like what they've done with it," said Bradenton's Barbara Hill, who came to the festival with her husband, Charlie, and family members Chris and Diana Clenney and great-niece Kaia Clenney, 4, who is said by many to be Manatee County's most discriminating fried calamari eater.
"Kaia likes it," Diana Clenney said of the calamari she tried at the festival.
The mayor, Palmetto city commissioners and city department heads all worked together to assemble a crack eight-person garbage man detail from various departments, joined by Hall from Waste Management. The leaders were Matt Bloome, from Palmetto utilities and Jeff Scott, from City of Palmetto solid waste and the parks department.
Picked for their speed emptying cans as well as a friendly personality toward the public were Jason Matthews, Richard Ferrell, Odilon Madrid and Norberto Mercado, all from Palmetto utilities, Rudy Guerrero from Palmetto parks department and Juan Madrid from Palmetto back flow and meters,
"Divide and conquer," said Scott when asked how the team kept up with 30,000 seafood lovers. "We split up the work and emptied so many cans so fast that my legs feel like concrete. But we got compliments along the way. People said we were fast."
The mayor also tipped her hat to First Baptist Church of Palmetto, which allowed people to park in their huge lot for free. The church could have charged for parking, the mayor said.
"The church had a sign that said, 'Park here with our blessing,' " Groover Bryant said. "I just think that speaks volumes for who we are in Palmetto."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or on Twitter: @RichardDymond.