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Van Wezel FridayFest is free fun

The Van Wezel’s FridayFest has returned for its summer gig. The outdoor concert series is one of the best entertainment values in the area, with great music and a spectacular view of the sunset over Sarasota Bay — all for free.

Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the purple performing arts hall last Friday night to listen to the Radio Killers. Many regulars, including John and Nancy Ernst, arrived in time to stake out a prime viewing spot and Bradenton’s John and Deb Ayres were among the first-timers who brought their chairs to relax and enjoy the scene.

The event is family-friendly and lots of folks brought their children, both of the two-legged and four-legged types. Victoria and Joe Aaronson were sharing some cheesecake slices with their kids, David and Olympia. David and Susan Gaubatz’s dogs, Calli and Captain, were among the furry friends attracting plenty of attention.

While the admission and entertainment are free, food and drinks are available for purchase.

The selection suits any taste and pocketbook, with choices ranging from hot dogs to crab cakes. Locals will recognize John McKinney and his J&J Bar-B-Que.

The offerings this month were expanded to include displays from local artists, craftspeople and social service agencies as part of the Juneteenth Celebration. According to Van Wezel Director of Marketing Julia Mays, the organization has been reaching out to more diverse populations. “This was a natural extension for us,” she explained.

The next FridayFest will be July 17 and feature the Bradenton/Sarasota country band, Rye Road.

Susan Wilcox, a Florida native, has lived in Bradenton for more than 20 years. She has been active in many local organizations as a volunteer or an employee.