MANATEE -- Lack of space and the cost of holding an event at Bradenton's Riverwalk is being cited by Taste of Manatee organizers for a decision to move the event to Palmetto's Sutton Park on Nov. 1-2.
Organizer Mark Sticht, with the Rotary Club of West Bradenton, said the move was necessary due to increases in Riverwalk rental fees, as well as an increasing lack of space because the development of condominiums is reducing parking and making it more difficult to get equipment on and off the Riverwalk.
Sticht said Bradenton hiked fees to $2,000 a day, "and they are already charging us for trash, police and everything else as an extra charge for space that is public use and for an event that gives the money back to the community."
The Taste of Manatee is in its 28th year and is one of the primary fund-raisers for the Rotary, which helps to support a growing list of charities and nonprofits.
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Bradenton event-review committee planner Rene' Raymond acknowledged Thursday that the celebration had been pulled from Riverwalk.
"It was September of last year when the rate increase was approved by the city council," said Raymond. "I believe the city figured that
Riverwalk has become like any other major venue, like the auditorium, and didn't feel like $2,000 for a big two-day event was unreasonable."
Raymond said the city was only charging about $25 a day prior to the rate increase, "and the city has to take into account the wear and tear a big event has on the Riverwalk."
Bradenton lost the DeSoto Seafood Festival to Palmetto this year as well, but Raymond said it made sense for the seafood festival to change venues, "because Riverwalk just isn't big enough to handle an event that size."
The success of the seafood festival at Sutton Park was noticed by Sticht, who said that was the deciding factor in moving.
"There is more space for arts and crafts and parking isn't an issue at Sutton Park," he said. "Basically, it's a better location and they are charging us $150 a day, so it's obviously less of a cost and that savings will be more money back into the community. We are a very family friendly event and it's been really refreshing to work with everyone at the city of Palmetto, who have been very supportive and excited to work with us."
The event will feature more than 20 local restaurants offering samples of their foods. Festival-goers can enter the event for free, purchase tickets to taste a variety of local specialties. In turn, the restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds back to Rotary.
"Each dish is around $2-4 and they are small portions, but the idea is to get a taste of everything our local restaurants have to offer," said Sticht. "There will also be nonstop music during the event and there will also be a children's stage that will feature nonstop entertainment for children, such as dancing and music."
The Del Couch Music Foundation is scheduling all local entertainment. A tiki bar-style tent will be set up for beer and wine and a big screen TV will be on hand to ensure no one misses a local college or NFL football game.
"We are more of a family street festival," said Sticht. "There will be a lot of nonprofits with their booths as well so people can connect with local charities to see what they are all about."
For more information, visit tasteofmanatee.com.