If Olga Bof has her way, a record number of folks will visit Williams Park Saturday for the expansive outdoor makers market and festival called Localtopia. And when it comes to Localtopia, Olga Bof – whose organization, Keep St. Petersburg Local (KSPL), founded the every-spring event – pretty much always gets her way. The City estimated last year’s crowd at around 40,000.
Since the beginning, Localtopia has invited only independent businesses, artists and community organizations from St. Petersburg to show and tell, and sell, what they’re all about.
Even the produce is hyper-local – participants Brick Street Farms and Greens & Things Urban Farm grow vegetables inside city limits. Even the food trucks are local.
“We tried one year to have vendors and food trucks from outside,” Bof explains. “We called it Neighbors and Nomads. But the community was like, you know what? We want to celebrate St. Pete. So that’s what this celebration is – it’s a celebration of all the awesomeness of St. Pete.”
It’s the 10th annual Localtopia. According to Bof, it’s grown (and adapted) exponentially every go-round. “To me, that’s a pretty big milestone, to have an event running for a decade,” she says. “But not only that, for the event to have actually grown every year rather than just ‘hit replay.’
“We’ve grown alongside the city, obviously, and we’re happy and feeling blessed that the community has embraced Localtopia this much, and looks forward to it as an annual event.”
For Bof and her staff, there’s always a moment, at some point during the goings-on, to stop, look around and breathe it all in. “It’s a palpable joy,” she enthuses. “It’s a palpable magic. It’s just a wonderful day to be a part of.”
The City of St. Petersburg maintains a “Major Events” page (see it here). Localtopia comes in at second place, after the Firestone Grand Prix and just before the Martin Luther King Jr. parade and celebration. “And that’s like, wait … whaaat? For a grassroots, nonprofit organization to have gotten to that level is pretty epic, you know?”
When Localtopia began, 10 years ago, “we just thought it was going to be this wonderful little event that also going to celebrate the anniversary of KSPL,” Bof explains. “At no point did we ever think that first year that those streets surrounding the park were going to be part of the festival. Like never, ever, ever.”
These days, of course, the surrounding streets are closed off and lined with food trucks, and other vendors.
An event on a massive scale, of course, can lead to parking issues. “On a regular Saturday, downtown St. Pete is already insane,” observes BOF. “You can’t find parking. From what I understand Localtopia had not just downtown, but even up to Grand Central, at a standstill. We wanted to help with those efforts to bring less cars in.”
The Tampa Bay Rays organization is opening Tropicana Field Lots 1 and 2 for free parking Saturday, and a free Star Trolley will run between the lots and Williams Park.
“And there’s a SunRunner stop just a block away from Williams Park,” says Bof, “so we’re encouraging everyone to please, please consider coming car-free to the event.”
Event hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Find the Localtopia website, with all information on vendors, food and live music performance, here.