The holidays are here.
In case you don’t know what to do – or have been avoiding commercials – there are two simple instructions: Eat and shop.
To that end, St. Petersburg will again this weekend be hosting Shopapalooza, an extravaganza of, well, food and things to buy.
This Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 25 and 26, Shopapalooza will take over Vinoy Park from 10 am to 5 pm each day. Co-sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg, this is the event’s 13th year. Admission is free.
There will be over 350 local businesses displaying their wares. There will be four food halls. There will be a beer garden.
The first day of Shopapalooza happens to coincide with Small Business Saturday, an annual event created by American Express to focus holiday shopping on local businesses. Coincidentally, Small Business Saturday, like Shopapalooza, started in 2010.
To St. Pete event organizer Ester Venouziou, the goal of the two events intersect perfectly, a dynamic she has watched firsthand since Shopapalooza started at Baywalk (the forerunner of the Sundial), with about 65 vendors, in 2010. There were brief stops in the old St. Pete Pier and South Straub Park before Shopapalooza arrived in Vinoy Park in 2019.
She has seen her vendors’ businesses grow; many that started with markets now have brick and mortar locations. She has seen the friends she’s made start families. The 6-year-old son of one of her vendors has now started her own glitter business.
“It’s wonderful seeing the connection people make,” Venouziou said. “You see the vendors become friends.”
Shopapalooza is the main annual event of LocalShops1, which Venouziou founded. What began as mostly a marketing/networking collaboration space, is now more an event-based agency. LocalShops1 also runs the online marketplace Buy Local Tampa Bay.
And there will be plenty of chances to buy local this weekend. Around 80% of LocalShops1 members participated. The site will again be broken down into three zones (central, north and south) and feature everything from jewelry and home goods to wellness stations, CBD and cigars. You can rescue a pet, find a photographer or buy books and records. There will be artists of all stripes.
Each shopping zone will have its own F&B vendors. Hanging in the south? Check out dessert options at Melonhead Melonade or Baked in the Burg. Central? For drinks, visit Beech Kombucha or Boba Nirvana. And in the north, Impasto and Pipo’s Cuban Café will supply your entrees.
Beer garden proceeds will go to local nonprofit Jump For Kids – with live performances all day, Christmas carolers and a kids’ area.
Although Venouziou said attendance numbers are hard to pin down, organizers are expecting 30,000-40,000 visitors over the two days, compared to 500 or so at the very first Shopapalooza.
The focus remains giving back to the local business community, a community, she said, that has always done the same – such as when vendors and restaurants fed first responders during the heat of the Covid epidemic.
“This weekend is one of their top grossing weekends,” Venouziou emphasized. “The whole idea is to get customers back to the storefronts.” The dynamic, she agreed, is sort of the inverse of what happens with social media: On Facebook and other platforms, folks re-connect online with people they use to know face-to-face. Here, local citizens can go offline and re-establish links with their communities.
But, Venouziou warned, it is vital that people remember that for local businesses, engagement is needed 52 weeks a year, not just one weekend.
“They (the businesses) need support every day,” Venouziou cautioned. “Otherwise, they’re not going to make it.”
Shopapalooza takes place 10 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, November 25 and 26 at Vinoy Park, 701 Bayshore Dr. NE, St. Petersburg. There will be free trolleys operating 9:30 am to 6 pm both days between South Core Garage (on 2n.d. St. South) and Vinoy Park. Event website.