A.D. 2017 is very nearly at an end. But if you want to squeeze just a bit more fun out of the old year, there are still plenty of chances to do that in the Bradenton area. The vast majority of them will come on Sunday, New Year’s Eve. Here are some of the best bets, just in case you haven’t made plans yet.
Main Street Live
The street parties in downtown Bradenton are generally a blast, but they always get more energy from the New Year’s Eve crowd.
This year’s event should be really special, because it features Have Gun, Will Travel. HGWT is one of the most popular bands to ever come out of Bradenton. They’re known all over the world and they get airplay on Americana and alternative radio stations around the country. So even though they still live here, they don’t play too many local shows. Main Street Live gives you a chance to see them, outdoors and for free. The Beat Down opens.
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It runs from 6 p.m. until midnight (later hours than other Main Street Live events) on Old Main Street between Manatee Avenue and Third Avenue. It ends with a ball drop as the old year ends and the new one begins.
This year’s event should be really special, because it features Have Gun, Will Travel.
The street is closed to traffic and lined with vendors and food truck. Bars and restaurants on Old Main will be open too. facebook.com/events/152012938898044.
The biggest New Year’s Eve bash in the area attracts about 20,000 to 25,000 people every year, organizers say. They come for midway rides, food and beer vendors, live music and a fantastic fireworks display on Sarasota Bay in the early moments of 2018.
The titular attraction, of course, if the ritual lowering of a huge lighted pineapple as the crowd counts down the seconds until midnight.
But it’s really an all-day festival that starts at 1 p.m. and dominates downtown Sarasota for the rest of 2017. You won’t be able to miss it of you’re in the vicinity, but if you’re heading down from Manatee County and you don’t know Sarasota too well, just tell Siri you want to go to Main Street and lemon Avenue.
It’s all free and appropriate for the whole family. Go to visitdowntownsarasota.com for more information.
Beach House fireworks
You can also catch early-2018 fireworks without the huge crowds of the Sarasota Pineapple Drop by heading out to Anna Maria Island and taking in the annual pyrotechnic display at the Beach House restaurant, 200 Gulf Dr., Bradenton Beach. You can relax on the beach or in the restaurant while you wait for the show to begin, just after midnight.
It’s likely to be plenty crowded, so it’s a good idea to have a parking plan in mind if you’re driving down there. The Beach House has a lot and valet parking available for customers. 941-779-2222, beachhouse.groupersandwich.com.
The biggest New Year’s Eve bash in the area attracts about 20,000 to 25,000 people every year, organizers say.
First Night St. Petersburg
First Night celebrations started in the mid-1970s as an way to celebrate New Year’s Eve arts and creativity instead of alcohol. Hundreds of cities around the country used to host them, but now only a few dozen do. St. Petersburg’s is the longest-lived one around these parts.
It begins at 4 p.m. with activities and shows for kids. The First Night Procession with giant sea creature puppets will leave the First United Methodist Church (212 Third St. N., St. Petersburg) at 7:15 p.m. and march to the waterfront for the Bubble Stomp followed by the Kids Kaboom Fireworks at 8 p.m.
Among the music acts will be rockers Ryan Montbleau and his band, blues by Damon Fowler, jazz by Henry Ashwood, the Infinite Groove Orchestra, the PCCA Gibbs Jazz Ensemble, bluegrass by the Muddy River Bottom Waders, opera and chamber music with St. Petersburg Opera, and choral concerts by the One City Chorus and Chorus Angelorum.
There’s tons more stuff too, all over downtown. Go to firstnightstpete.com to learn more. Tickets (buttons, actually) are $12 adults, $5 children 6-12 and free for children under age 6.
Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge
Here’s something for the next day, if you can pull yourself out of bed in the a.m. after your New Year’s Eve revelries. And it’s for a good cause. The 10th annual Shamrock Shiver Charity Plunge is a local fundraiser for at-risk children sponsored by Clancy’s Irish Sports Pub. It is set for noon Monday on Gulf Drive and Seventh Street South in Bradenton Beach. The main attraction is people who plunge into the water in January. It may be Florida, but the water is still plenty cold. There’s also a costume contest before the plunge itself. Be there by 11:15 a.m. if you want to enter. The plunge itself takes place at noon.
After the entrants towel off and warm up, they’ll all head to Clancy’s, 6218 Cortez Road W., for the always-popular post-plunge party with live entertainment, silent auction items and prize drawings, and you’re invited too.
All proceeds benefit Caring for Children Charities. To plunge, pledge or make a donation, call Rayma Stowe at 941-794-2489.