BRADENTON -- Linda Heath hopped into her boat Saturday morning with her husband and headed down the Manatee River.
Their destination: Taste of Manatee in downtown Bradenton.
“We came early, found a place to dock and when it gets slammed, we go,” Heath said. “I like this venue. I enjoy the music and the energy.”
Thousands were expected this weekend at the event, now in it 25th year, to sample food, listen to music and peruse goods of various vendors. The festivities, which got underway with sublime weather Saturday, continue from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.
Throughout the afternoon, groups could be seen sipping drinks or taking bites of food from local restaurants while listening to music and strolling by the river.
“It’s great food and music,” said Carol Kopp, a seasonal resident from Pittsburgh. “We’ve had a gyro and jambalaya and both were excellent.”
Kopp said she enjoys the event because she can get connected with local businesses and restaurants, an aspect of the event even locals enjoy.
Ron and Deb Smith of Bradenton use the event to eat at local spots they’ve never hit before.
“So far it’s really good,” Deb Smith said about her first pizza from Ferraro’s Pizza. “We are going to walk around a bit and just people watch.”
Some of the more popular items were the Cajun jambalaya from Dawson’s Cafe and Family Restaurant and squid fries with curried sweet chili aioli from Ocean Harvest Market & Grill.
“It feels good to know it’s a favorite,” said Steve Carrera, a sous chef at Ocean Harvest, adding that his restaurant tries to keep everything as community-centered as possible. “We are locally owned and operated and we buy our fish from local fishermen.”
It’s that local flavor that makes Taste of Manatee worth going to for Heath, a local artist herself.
“It’s great food and the vendors all have unique jewelry. It feels good to know it’s all local,” said Heath, holding an empty plate of squid fries.