Olga Bof always likes to say that each Localtopia – a community celebration of all things local – will be bigger and better than the last one. This year, though, she has a different message.
“We can’t promise this will be the biggest and best,” Bof, the founder and executive director for Keep St. Petersburg Local, told the Catalyst. “But I can say this is the most important, and if there was ever a year this needed to happen, it’s this one.”
Planning the eighth annual Localtopia, which will be held at Williams Park Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is a logistical challenge under the best of circumstances, but adding in a pandemic creates a whole new layer of complexity. Bof and her team have instituted a number of measures to ensure that the event is as safe as possible, including requiring masks and conducting temperature checks at the entrance.
That means that instead of the usual “sip and stroll -” where attendees munch on a snack or enjoy a beer while they shop – there will be one area set aside for dining and that will be the only place where masks can be removed. Draft beer will also not be served. However, Localtopia will still have its Food Truck Rally Alley on Fourth Street and some additional food trucks on Second Avenue.
“We’re calling it the best food hall in St. Pete,” Bof said, noting there will be about 50 food vendors on hand including – fingers crossed – The Clara Rose Ice Cream truck, which has been out of commission due to a crash last summer.
Additionally, there will be fewer vendors, to promote social distancing – though Bof said that only a handful opted out – and fewer volunteers. She also anticipates attendance will be down by between 30 and 50 percent, though she expects the people who do show up will open their wallets.
“When we did our Maker’s Market in December, we didn’t necessarily see huge numbers of people attending but they were definitely buying more,” she said. “They were committed to supporting our local businesses because they understand the year that everybody’s had, especially these makers.”
For those reasons, Bof never seriously considered canceling this year’s Localtopia. It’s too important to the local business community and to the economy. Last year’s festival had an economic impact of nearly $4 million dollars on the day of the event alone. Giving up would mean letting down all the local businesses who rely on Keep St. Petersburg Local and Localtopia as an advocate and supporter, and it isn’t something she could do with a clear conscience.
“It’s almost like when you contemplate doing something for your kid that you think is going to be impossible because you have nothing more in the tank to give, but then you’re like ‘it’s my kid. I have to find a way,’” she said. “This is kind of how I feel about this event. We have a responsibility and an obligation to do everything we absolutely can to put this event on this year. ”
For the full Localtopia schedule, click here.
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