You've probably noticed that the weather suddenly became gorgeous a week or so ago. The timing's perfect for people in Bradenton, because this weekend brings three outdoor festivals. They would have been worth going to even if the temperatures were still in the 90s, but now that's like to be a good 10 degrees cooler than that they ought to be heavenly.
Two of the festivals are longtime local favorites. The third is new. Here's a look at each of them:
Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribs Music Fest
There are lots of changes in store for this year's festival, which runs Friday through Sunday, starting with a new name.
The name has evolved over the festival's nine-year history. It started out as Ribfest and then gradually added descriptors along the way. Last year it was Gulf Coast Rhythm & Rib Fest.
This year's new name signifies an increased emphasis on music, and this year's festival features one of the best entertainment lineups in the festival's history. Headliners include country music superstar John Michael Montgomery, Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter Joe, blues man Biscuit Miller, who won Blues Music Award Winner for Bassist of the Year in 2012, and chart-topping smooth jazz artist Eric Darius. Lots of original bands are on the bill as well.
But there's no less emphasis on the food. Rib cooks from all over the country, including national award-winners, will be on hand for the festival.
The festival has moved from its longtime home at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto to McKechnie Field in Bradenton. (It's actually in the parking lot of McKechnie Field, not on the baseball diamond.)
There should be ample free parking in the lots around the field, organizers say, but they're also planning a free shuttle service just in case. Details will be on the festival's website as soon as they're set.
The best change this year is in the admission price. For the first time ever, the festival is free. In recent years, tens of thousands of people have paid $15 or more for admission, so that's a significant change. Sponsorships, especially from the Pirates, have enable the festival to allow free admission.
There's also a fireworks show slated for 8 p.m. Friday.
Here's the live music lineup:
6 p.m. -- Lauren Mitchell Band
8:30 p.m. -- Billy Rice Band
12: 30 p.m. -- Boss Hawg Band
2:30 p.m. -- Jah Movement Reggae Band
4:30 p.m. -- Biscuit Miller
6:30 p.m. -- Mitch Clark Band
8:30 p.m. -- John Michael Montgomery
2 p.m. -- DemiNova John Michael Montgomery
3:30 p.m. NuJazz
5 p.m. -- Eric Darius
6:30 p.m. -- Joe
Details: Oct. 9-11, McKechnie Field, 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday. Admission: Free. Information: 941-746-7470, gulfcoastribfest.com.
Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival
For nearly a quarter of a century, Hunsader Farms has hosted one of the most popular family festivals of the year in Manatee County. It's kind of like a county fair, with celebrations of rural and small-town lifestyles mixed with world-class entertainment.
Among the attractions at the festival, which starts Saturday and runs through Oct. 25, are hayrides, a petting zoo, a frog jumping contest, a butterfly experience and of course tons of great food, from fresh produce to homemade ice cream.
Entertainment comes from live bands, cloggers, monster truck shows and motorcycle shows, a rope trick artist and Bello Nock, one of the world's most renowned circus clowns.
Details: Oct. 10-25, Hunsader Farms, 5500 County Road 675, Bradenton. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Tickets: $10; children 12 and under free. Information: 941- 322-2168, hunsaderfarms.com.
Beer, Boats & Bacon
Not everybody likes beer, boats and bacon, but probably almost everybody like at least one of the three.
Saturday's Beer, Boats & Bacon features more than 80 craft and specialty beers (the regular admission price gets you unlimited three-ounce samples), samples of "bacon-centric" foods from local restaurants and caterers, and a rowing competition called the Sarasota-Bradenton head race.
The whole festival is only four hours long, so unless you're super-speedy you probably won't get to sample all 80 beers. If you're not much of a drinker you can get less expensive tickets that let you skip the beer and just enjoy the boats and bacon. You can still buy beer and wine.
Details: 3-7 p.m. Oct. 10, Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota. Tickets: $35 advance, $45 day of festival for general admission; $15 advance, $25 day of festival for tasting admission; $55 VIP tickets. Information: beerboatsandbacon.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.