Seafood Festival in downtown Bradenton

It’s that time of year again.

Time for shrimp, grouper, all the other deliciousness of the sea and more.

This weekend marks the annual DeSoto Heritage Seafood Festival, one of Bradenton’s favorite events.

Last year’s crowd was the largest yet, with more than 40,000 people packing the downtown riverfront, said Gary Scott, president of the Hernando de Soto Historical Society.

“If we have great weather and the sunshine’s here, we will have an awesome turnout,” Scott said of this year’s festivities. “It should be a good time for all ages.”

The event is a crowd pleaser because it’s free to get in and has it received a growing reputation on its entertainment line-up, he said.

Then there’s the food.

The event will have about 25 food vendors on hand from the area. They include the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, the Riverhouse Reef and Grill and Mattison’s. There’s even food for non-seafood lovers from area establishments such as Demetrios,’ J&J Bar B Que and Ballpark Deli and Sub Shop. Also, look for clam chowder and corn dogs from the Kiwanis Club. There’s dessert options, too.

Just remember, to get food and drinks you must have tickets and to get tickets, you have to find a ticket booth. Booths will be set up in and around the food tents to purchase tickets.

There’s also three tented bar areas.

As for fun, there’s musical entertainment on three stages — with a variety of local bands and more, including country star Rodney Atkins, Mark Wills and Beatlemania Now, which looks, acts and sounds just like the Beatles, said Scott.

There’s also a Rolling Stones tribute band and a Jimmy Buffet cover band.

“We’ve stepped it up with the entertainment,” Case said of recent seafood fests. “We put a lot of money into entertainment last year. We’ve put a lot more into it this year.”

Last year’s event included Tracy Byrd and local “American Idol” alum Syesha Mercado.

The festival also will have an expanded children’s zone, complete with a tractor train that kids can ride on and a rock climbing wall for teens. The farmers market will be active Saturday morning, too, offering fresh fruits and veggies. Bikers can look for a free bike parking section at the Bradenton City Center where they can show off their rides.

Bikers also can sign up for the Blue Knights 7-Card Poker Run on Sunday. The run begins at 10:30 a.m. for more information, visit www.seafoodfest.info.

With lots in store for this year’s festival, one won’t get bored.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything going on,” said Case.

Even a portable ATM machine for fast cash — just in case your money runs out.

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