HOLMES BEACH -- Anna Maria Island’s bid to become the “beach wedding capital of Florida” is starting to reap rewards with the island’s annual wedding festival, island chamber officials said Monday.
The fourth annual Anna Maria Island Wedding Festival, held in February, attracted 240 brides-to-be, including one who switched her wedding plans from Orlando to Manatee County, festival officials told the Tourist Development Council.
The festival also generated an estimated $105,000 in tax revenue, said Debbie Wing, festival organizer. Almost one-fourth of attendees came from outside the Bradenton/Sarasota area, including 19 percent from the high-priority target area of Orlando/Lakeland.
“This festival might not be looked at as a festival, but as a billboard advertisement for Anna Maria Island and Manatee County,” Wing said.
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Overall, the festival attracted about 500 people. While that’s less than the Wedding Festival’s 2010 draw of 800, it was a more focused group because a greater percentage of attendees were actual brides who traveled to Anna Maria Island specifically for the event, Wing said.
The festival also learned this year to market itself with less money. Wing said the 2011 advertising budget was only about $28,000 -- $10,000 of which came from the TDC -- compared with a $54,000 advertising budget in 2010.
Wing expects next year’s numbers to be even more impressive because the festival will move from February to May. The new dates are intended to avoid snarled seasonal traffic, which several would-be festival-goers said prevented them from attending this year, Wing said.
Christine Hawes, Bradenton Herald business writer, can be reached at email@example.com.