Neither rain, sleet, snow nor a pandemic shall keep Olga Bof from bringing Localtopia to Williams Park.
For that matter, a bout with breast cancer couldn’t do it either.
Bof, the founder and executive director of the grassroots group Keep Saint Petersburg Local, was diagnosed just a week before the last Localtopia, held pre-pandemic on Feb. 22, 2020.
The celebration of local businesses, with (local) food and (local) music, set an attendance record – an estimated 30,000 people strolled the park and surrounding streets, and $4 million (at the very least) was pumped into the St. Pete economy.
Bof was just beginning her extraordinary health journey. And then Covid-19 arrived.
But she’s still here, as indefatigable as ever, and so is Localtopia – the smaller, socially-distanced 8th annual edition takes place this Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I’ve had a pretty intense year,” Bof says, “but I thought if I got through this year, and during Covid, I could do anything. I’m blessed to still be here, and every day I wake up I thank God for that new day. And everything else is really gravy.”
There will be fewer than 200 vendors this year – about half of the total from 2020 – offering up a wide variety of goods and services. Here’s the list.
Bof takes them, and Localtopia, very seriously.
“My vendors are my (KSPL) members, they’re part of the alliance,” she explains. “We say they’re family. In a sense, they’re like my unruly children. And when I think about how many of them have reached out over the last couple of months saying ‘Please, Olga don’t cancel Localtopia. I need this,’ that is a huge responsibility on your shoulders.
“These are the businesses that make our city great. How could I not do everything in my power to make sure they make it to the next Localtopia? If I say ‘You know what, it’s too hard,’ they might have needed that day to literally stay in business.”
Under county and city Covid guidelines, there’s a cap on the number of attendees (she won’t reveal the figure, but says it’s similar to the early years, when Localtopia was just in the park and hadn’t yet spilled out onto adjacent streets). “We are very comfortable with that,” Bof says.
The park and streets will, for the first time, be fenced, in an effort to monitor the numbers. There will be just two points of entry. Volunteers wearing black T-shirts with the words SPACE FORCE will check temperatures as people arrive, and make sure masks are always worn by both vendors and visitors. The vendor booths have been spaced much further apart than in previous years.
Bof believes she and her associates and volunteers have done everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable event. “Localtopia,” she explains, “is being run safer than most of what you encounter in your daily life, like going to the supermarket. So many of those places have gotten Covid complacent.
“The danger with Covid is not at an outdoor, masked event. Masks are the key. I feel that you are going to be safer at Localtopia, outdoors in a footprint that big and wearing a mask, than if you were indoors with your friends and family over the holidays without masks.”