During the year, our area hosts a number of enjoyable festivals that draw people by the thousands. They come for the delicious Florida food, unique crafts and festive music. They also come for intriguing performances from local and national artists. Whether you’re young or old, there’s plenty of exciting festival offerings for everyone.
Ringling International Arts
This brand new festival, held at the John and Mable Ringing Museum of Art and Florida State University campus, kicked off in October 2009, attracting Florida residents near and far, plus guests from across the nation.
Set to be held every two years, the five-day arts festival features top international artists in music, theater and dance performing alongside local artists.
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The festival was originally John Ringling’s dream, but the idea never got off the ground after the Great Depression. It was only through the efforts of Bradenton resident and former state Sen. John McKay and the prolific Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, that Ringling’s dream has finally come to life.
Cortez Commercial Fishing
Set along the historic fishing village of Cortez, this two-day festival draws crowds out for smoked mullet, grouper and other delicacies caught by the fishermen of this quaint community. Plenty of fish-inspired art can be found among the craft booths, too. The festival, which is held every February, highlights the area’s history.
DeSoto Heritage Festival
Those who have lived in Manatee County long enough often plan their time around this annual festival, which takes place during March and April. Events include the Children’s Parade and Party in the Park, Easter Egg Hunt, the Easter Sunrise Service, the Bottle Boat Regatta, the Queen’s Court and the DeSoto Ball. Two of the most popular festival activities are the Grand Parade — filled with conquistador, ships and plenty of beads — and the Seafood Festival, which features dozens of seafood vendors and quality entertainment in downtown Bradenton.
Sarasota Film Festival
If you enjoy celebrity sightings, trendy parties and cutting-edge films, the Sarasota Film Festival is a must-attend event. The 2010 fest, set for April 9-18, marks the 12th year of this festival. Past celebrity guests have included Jon Voight, Chevy Chase, Alan Alda, Brooke Shields, Charlize Theron and many more. But believe it or not, for many attendees, the festival is more about the films than the celebrities.
Hundsader Farms Pumpkin
Fans of old-fashioned country festivals should plan to attend this popular October festival at Hunsader Farms. It features two weekends of country cooking, country music and other country fare. The family-friendly festival also boasts unique acts — such as magic shows, dogs on three-wheelers and the BMX Stunt Show.
Cine-World Film Festival
This festival, held in November, highlights the best in world cinema. It has been going strong for 20 years thanks to the efforts of the Sarasota Film Society.