Tag Archives: festival

Seven Dwarfs sand

Fairy Tales in the Sand at Clearwater Beach

Fairy Tale Beach

Three Little Pigs in sandDo you remember the Three Little Pigs? Goldie Locks? Rapunzel? The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? The Princess and the Pea? Clearwater Beach, Florida brought those and a host of other fairy tales into the realm of three dimensions at the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival . At a mere ten dollars a ticket, visitors gained entrance to the large tent protecting the sand sculptures. A path led through the artwork, the trail composed of nothing more than ordinary beach sand which is there all year round. Guests were treated to close up encounters with their favorite fairy tales. Viewers discussed each pieces, many trying to recall the names of certain fairy tales or quotes from the stories. Sculpted into the sand of some of the pieces were their titles, helping guests along while presenting some striking three dimensional fonts. Colored lights alternated from one shade to another, helping to enhance the shadows. pinoccioTo immerse spectators further, a soundtrack played in which snippets of fairy tales were read. The walkway wound end to end inside the very large tent. The trail led guests through the fairy tale renderings, passing by a photo op in front of a fairy tale castle at one end, and a sculpture contest at the other. Loads of interesting sculptures waited in between, making a visit to the ten day Sugar Sand Festival a worthy outing for both area visitors and local residents.

 

Unique Sand Sculptures

sand sculptureThis year marks the centennial anniversary of Clearwater, Florida. The one hundredth birthday of the community was marked with a sand sculpture of a giant birthday cake at the exit to the event. Another local feature that made its welcome return to the Sugar Sand Festival was Winter the dolphin, this time with her friend Hope to help her along. The two real-life dolphins star in the Dolphin Tale movies which have brought a dose of unexpected fame to the area. Sand sculpting contestThe other sculptures that did not follow the fairy tale theme were those from the sculpting contest. A handful of artists pitted their skills against one another at the south end of the large tent. All contest designs were well done, as you might imagine, some including remarkably intricate detail. The the contestant themes ranted from  mechanical structures to the abstract art in three dimensions. Visitors were encouraged to vote for their favorites.

 

Sand Sculpting Artists

GoldielocksOne of the best features of the 2015 Sugar Sand Festival was the upkeep of the sculptures. Not only were sculpted pieces maintained and repaired throughout, new pieces appeared all week long. Team Sandtastic, a traveling group of sand sculpture artists, was responsible for the majority of the sculptures seen at the event. A talk with one of the team members revealed some interesting tidbits. Fairy Tale CastleThe one sculptor we spoke with was responsible for several tons of sculpted sand within the tent. The event itself boasted a weigh in of 1000 tons of sand. An interesting and interactive feature was the chance to get a photograph in front of a giant fairy tale castle made by the team. Guests could take home the photo from a booth outside that also sold photo booklets from the event.

 

Pier 60 Festivities

Sugar Sand FestivalPier 60 was bustling all week long. On an ordinary day, souvenir vendors line the pier for four hours a night at the Sunset Festival. Street performers entertain the crowds juggling fire, tumbling, dancing, or displaying a host of other talents. For the Sugar Sand Festival, vendors set up all day long, every day of the festival. Evening is always the prime time for street performers, but one or two could be found at almost any hour during the ten day event. In addition to the additional availability of souvenirs, a number of food carts set up along the sidewalk and on the sand to serve treats to the passing crowds. TPier 60 Sugar Sand Festivalhrown into the mix was a swimming pool where visitors could float in giant inflatable bubbles, an interactive drum circle, a sand castle building area for the kids, and even a mechanical “bull” in the shape of a shark. On the two weekends, bands play on a stage set up on the beach. The sands of Clearwater Beach were the venue for those who attended the shows. The extra activities, the food, and the music surrounding the sand sculpture tent made the event a thrill to visit.

 

Sugar Sand Festival

Little Boy Who Cried WolfThe Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival was as fun as expected. Last year set a high bar that this year’s event succeeded at meeting. The event drew plenty of extra attention during a time of year that ordinarily sees fewer visitors. Artists transformed the beautiful white sands of Clearwater Beach into fairy tale sculptures, while the grounds outside took on a carnival atmosphere. For those thinking of coming to Clearwater Beach, or one of the nearby beaches in the area, April might be the month to consider. If you enjoy fascinating art and a dynamic atmosphere, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival is for you.

 

Genie in the lamp Pinoccio whale Banner for Sugar Sand Festival Thumbalina

Other posts you might enjoy:

Holiday Lights in the Garden

Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

 

Gasparilla invasion

Tampa Falls to Gasparilla Pirate Attack Again

Tampa Falls to Pirate Invasion

Jose GasparillaThe City of Tampa fell to invasion once again this year as pirates sailed into Tampa Bay. The pirate ship named the Jose Gasparilla sailed up the bay to the convention center where the pirates accepted the key to the city from the mayor. The ship was filled to the brim with pirates, every crow’s nest and deck filled with attacking buccaneers. With cannons thundering, the ship made its way from Port Tampa Bay up Seddon Channel, which ends in front of Tampa’s convention center. An armada of private boats and cruise boats surrounded it, filling the channel from side to side and end to end. The arrival of the ship was greeted by the screams of the capacity crowd along the waterfront.

 

Pirate Party of the Year

Gasparilla festivalThe Gasparilla Pirate Invasion first occurred on horseback, all the way back in 1904. The ship, Jose Gasparilla was added later, apparently being the world’s only fully-rigged modern day pirate ship. The festival is now over a hundred years old and as popular as ever. The streets swarmed with attendees, a large portion wearing pirate gear. Vendors were out in force, booths and carts providing plenty of food and souvenirs. Downtown Tampa parking lots switched from hourly charges to a onetime fee for the day to accommodate the event that filled Tampa to to the brim. The festivities officially began at 11:30 but would-be pirates began to appear in the streets as early as 8:30 in the morning. By the end of the Invasion, the streets were filled from side to side with Gasparilla revelers.

 

Gasparilla Pirate Armada

pirate armadaOne of the best parts of the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion each year is the armada of private and charter boats that accompany the arrival of the tall ship Jose Gasparilla. Charters from our own Clearwater Beach were among the flotilla, our camera capturing Starlite Majesty, The Tropics, Two Georges, Super Queen, and Calypso Queen. The boats arrived to the waters surrounding the convention center non-stop, most of them decorated with beads and other pirate gear. One boater had his own cannon. While the gun was only a foot long, it had all the explosive sound of a large cannon. Private boats cruised the shoreline throwing beads to the waiting crowds along the railings of the convention center. The result was a dizzying array of moving boats, loud music, cannon fire, and shouting crowds.

 

Tampa Waterfront

Gasparilla Pirate InvasionThe Tampa waterfront is a pleasant place to be any day of the year. The area has seen many improvements over the decades. Waterfront dining is the most popular attraction, second only to strolling the waterfront walkways. It is the site of a popular Fourth of July celebration, as well as many other events throughout the year. Amalie Arena and Curtis Hixon Hall are two sports and concert venues at the water’s edge for Tampa fun seekers. And, of course, the waterways of Tampa are a paradise for private boat owners to enjoy, a surprising number of restaurants catering to those arriving by boat. Gasparilla invasionAdding the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion to the Tampa Waterfront is a great idea for the city. The city bursts at the seams for the Gasparilla themed events that include the Gasparilla Kids Parade, the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, the regular Gasparilla Parade, and the nighttime pirate festival. If you are planning a trip to the Tampa Bay area, which includes Clearwater and Saint Petersburg, keep the end of January in mind for the dynamic Gasparilla Pirate Festival events.

 

Video of Gasparilla Pirate Invasion

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

5 Favorite Party Spots at Clearwater Beach

Ultimate Tourist Attraction at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

 

Kite Festival

Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition

Beach Kite Festival

kite festival Treasure IslandThe Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition flew over the Florida Gulf Coast again this January, lighting up the daytime sky with bright colors. The day started with mild breezes, not the kind you want for a kite competition, or for flying the giant sized kites. Fortune was on the side of the kite flyers, however, when the afternoon weather brought winds that were perfect for kite flying. The skies were partly cloudy, and it the type of day where some people wore shorts and others light jackets. Crowds lined the sidewalk, using the wall at the edge of the sand for seating. The turnout was fantastic, with the beach restaurants and bars filled to capacity. The large crowds lent an atmosphere of excitement to the event.

 

Sport Kite Competition

sport kitesThe completion portion of the festival was as fun to watch as ever. One of the events that drew the most comments was the children’s kite races, where youngsters, holding kites several times their size, raced across the sand. Other competitions included synchronized kite flying, sport kite flying, and flying sport kites to music.

 

Giant Kites

giant kitesWhile the sport kites were flying, all manner of non-competition kites were sailing over the beach at Treasure Island. The giant octopus kite was a favorite again. Many new kites made their first appearances as well. The kite receiving the most comments was the figure of a scuba diver with a shark swimming just behind him. A kite premiering at the beach was the image of a geisha with the flowing tail of the kite representing her dress.

 

Perfect Beach for Kite Flying

kite at Treasure Island BeachWith kites filling skies over the beach, it was easy to enjoy a walk across the sand. The combination of large, colorful, slow moving kites and racing sport kites created a mesmerizing effect.

The location at Treasure Island Beach was well chosen, the sand being wider than any other location on the coast. Plenty of fun shops and restaurants are nearby, as well as tourist activities like fishing charters and day cruises. The festival comes to the beach each year in January, providing a great excuse to get out to the shore at this great beach community.  If you are considering a trip to the Florida Gulf Coast for the winter, the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition is an event to keep in mind.

 

 

Treasure Island Kite Festival Videos

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Sky Surfing Clearwater Beach

A Beach Less Traveled

Secrets of the Fall at Clearwater Beach

 

Tampa Bay Activities

Wild Winter Wonders on the Florida Gulf Coast

Upcoming Events on the Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf CoastIf you are looking for an exciting getaway from the chilly winter duldrums, the Florida Gulf Coast might have the answer. Aside from warmer weather than nearly anywhere else in the United States, the Gulf Coast is also known for its endless line up of festivals and events. The winter of 2015 will be no exception to that rule. Here, below, you will find a list of events coming soon to the Florida Gulf Coast. The list includes some of the top events. It does not include them all. The Florida Gulf Coast has more events in 2015 than you might imagine!

 

Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso Under One Roof

Salvador Dali museumThe famous Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida is a fantastic museum for art enthusiasts. It is also a remarkable start for those new to the world of art. The Dali exhibits, open year round, are fascinating. With the inclusion of works from Pablo Picasso, the museum becomes a must-visit location. The additional exhibits of Picasso’s works began in November 2014 and will run until February 16th, 2015. Be sure not to miss this intriguing combination of two of the world’s most famous artists.

 

Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition

kite festivalThis gigantic kite event is set on the expansive swath of sand in Treasure Island, Florida. Unlike any other kite event you will find, the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition is a joy to attend. The 2015 event will be held January 16th through the 18th. See the biggest kites in the sky hovering over the beautiful sands of the Florida Gulf Coast. Watch stunt kite competitions, and stroll the sands to stand beneath your favorite monster kites. If you like the beach, oversized displays, and loads of bright colors, this is the event for you.

 

Running and More Running on the Florida Gulf Coast

If you enjoy participating in or spectating marathons or running events, then be sure to hit the Florida Gulf Coast this winter. Three great events will be held on our shores, each one unique in its own right.

triathlonThe Clearwater Distance Classic

The Clearwater Distance Classic event will include a true marathon distance (26.2 miles), plus other, shorter events, down to a 5 mile course. The staging grounds for this event is popular Coachman Park, an open air park on the waterfront of Clearwater Harbor. The event will be held January 18th. An expo for the event will be held at the park on the 17th.

 

Discover Caladesi Island 5K and 10 Miler

Caladesi Island beachThis Caladesi Island running event is truly unique. Caladesi is a natural island with no roads. This race will take place on the beach itself on Saturday, January 24, 2015. Runners will enjoy one of the most beautiful natural beaches on Earth as the setting for these 10 mile and 5K events. This will be one to remember for both participants and spectators.

2015 Gasparilla Distance Classic

The Gasparilla Distance Classic is a great way to get a taste of famous Tampa Bay. Well-known for its scenic water views, Bayshore Blvd runs a surprisingly long distance of the waterfront. The scenic drive is the setting for the race named after the famous pirate, Gasparailla. Enjoy beautiful homes, sparkling bay waters, and the Tampa skyline on this multi-tiered race. The 2015 Gasparilla Distance Classic takes place February 21st and 22nd.

 

Pinellas Folk Festival

Heritage VillageLocated at the fascinating Heritage Village in Largo, Florida, the Pinellas Polk Festival uses the historic theme of the park to its advantage. Heritage Village is home to an intriguing display of old Florida homes and other buildings, with walkways leading through the park. Tours are available, on a schedule, to guide you through the historic buildings. The event is scheduled for January 31st, 2015, 10am to 4pm. The Pinellas Folk Festival adds music, food, live demonstrations, and speakers to a location that is already bursting with interesting artifacts.

 

Gasparilla Pirate Fest

GasparillaAlso known as the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, this event is one of the  highlights of the year for Tampa Bay. The pirate invasion is a must-see event, with pirate ships and a massive flotilla of private boats entering the Port of Tampa. Following the boats, a Mardi Gras style parade cruises the waterfront, complete with plenty of pirates and loads of bead necklaces for the kids. This noisy, lively parade will lift your spirits and leave your kids with big smiles. The street festival, with a vibrant street scene that is the peak of the year in the Tampa Bay area, is fun for everyone, the nighttime activities more attuned to adults. The invasion runs from 11:30am to 1pm January 31st, followed by the parade at 2pm to 5:30pm. The street festival runs two days, January 30 and 31st, from 10am to 10pm. Be sure to visit the Gasparilla Pirate Fest if you are in the Tampa Bay area at the end of January.

 

Clearwater Beach Uncorked

Champagne_corkClearwater Beach Uncorked is a wine tasting and food event held on Clearwater Beach. It is an upscale event aimed at those who love to sample wine and food. Taste creations from some of Clearwater Beach’s best. The 2015 event will be held February 7th and 8th.

 

For the Love of Baseball

Typical_baseball_gameSpring training is a happy time in Tampa Bay. The Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays arrive in town to give Clearwater and Dunedin a perfect opportunity to enjoy the sport. Regardless of what team you root for in the regular season, take advantage of this extra helping of baseball served up locally. Phillies train from March 1st to April 2nd. Blue Jays train from March 3rd to the 31st. Spring training on the Florida Gulf Coast is the perfect excuse to come out to the ball park!

 

Fun on the Florida Gulf Coast

If you are looking for a fun spot to spend your winter, take another look at the Florida Gulf Coast. Aside from our mild winters and remarkable beaches, we also are host to a steady stream of great activities. Come visit us!

Sand sculpture at Treasure island

Treasure Island Sanding Ovation Festival Takes Sand Sculpting Art to a Science

Sanding Ovation 2014

Go with the Flow sculptureThe Sanding Ovation sand sculpting competition returned to Treasure Island Beach again in November. The event gave residents and visitors a good reason to visit the area’s largest beach. With an enormous expanse of sand available, the event had plenty of space. Artists set up on the north end of the outdoor venue, with vendors streaming southward, the southern end capped by a stage for live music. With music streaming overhead, visitors were treated to a huge assortment of goodies to browse in the vending tents, while smoke from the food vendors wafted through the air. Live bands, food, and souvenirs added to the allure of thes sand sculptures, creating an event that drew large, happy crowds.

 

Beach Treasures and Cuisine

Food tent at Treasure IslandThe array of vending tents and food stalls were impressive at the Sanding Ovation event. Set up on the sands of Treasure Island Beach, the wares were arrayed in long lines, displaying every type of beach themed merchandise imaginable. Beach dresses, sculpted wood home décor, jewelry, art, curious, and toys were among the many choices. For those who were hungry, the Sanding Ovation event was the right place to be. Brats, fresh seafood, Greek food, and local grouper fish sandwiches were all within easy reach. Food vendors at Sanding OvationOf course, iced tea, lemonade, snow cones, and ice cream were also on the menu. At the north end of the event, a large tent held a full bar which served soft drinks as well as alcohol. Although the sand sculptures were enough to lure the crowds to Treasure Island, the extra goodies at the Sanding Ovation festival put the finishing touch on the event.

 

Sand Sculpting Contest at Treasure Island Beach

Divided Self sand sculptureThe key attraction of the Sanding Ovation event was the collection of sand sculptures. Artists from Treasure Island and across the globe converged on the beach to put their talents to the test. The Sanding Ovation artists did not disappoint. Sand sculpture entitled ForbiddenThe artistic ideals were pretty heavy, in fact, visitors commented on how much interpretation was available for each piece. One portrayed rediscovering self, another a “Divided Life,” set alongside a sculpture entitled “Forbidden,” which displayed a woman holding a ball and chain as if it were precious. An area nearby offered visitors a chance to pose alongside a snowman and snow woman crafted from sand. The logos of area businesses who sponsored the event were displayed, as you might suspect, in sand. Large crowds milled around the artwork, discussing which they liked best, what each piece might mean, and peering at who had earned the highest marks in the sand sculpting contest.

 

Sanding Ovation Sand Sculpting Contest Winners

1st Place Winner & People’s Choice Award

Love Never Dies sculpture

Love Never Dies by Jonathan Bouchard

2nd Place Winner

The Ripper by Chris Guinto

The Ripper by Chris Guinto

3rd Place Winner & Sculptors’ Choice Award

Vertigo by Sue McGrew

Vertigo by Sue McGrew

 

Treasure Island, Florida

Finding Your Old Self Again sculptureTreasure Island sits on the northern reaches of the Central Gulf Coast, enjoying the renowned white sands and beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It his home to great beach shops, ideal beach restaurants, and cool beach bars. It borders famous John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk which is home to waterfront dining and souvenir shopping. Nearby attractions are Fort Desoto Park and Clearwater Beach. If you are looking for a fun vacationTreasure Island Beach spot, take a closer look at this active beach. The sands are wider than any other beach in the region and it boasts plenty of the great tourist attractions that go along with a memorable beach vacation. One more reason to visit? The Sanding Ovation festival will return to Treasure Island again next year!

 

Sanding Ovation Video

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Super Boat Races 2014 at Clearwater Beach

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the Garden

 Holiday Lights at Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensEvery year the Florida Botanical Gardens presents the Holiday Lights in the Gardens event. It is well worth the visit. Holiday lights are strung to trees and bushes throughout the gardens, illuminating the wide variety of unique plants, and remarkable garden settings. The event is held at the three formal gardens, starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through New Year’s Eve. This year the dates are November 28 to December 31, and is open between 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. The volunteers at the entrance ask that you give a $4 donation upon entering, which is well worth it. The pathways, which are spectacular in the daylight, have decorations designed for viewing at night. Every color imaginable lines the walkways, many in shapes of animals or toys. The walkways are designed to wind through the gardens in a peaceful way, a feat still achievable, even with the crowds drawn by the light show.

 

Heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens

TLive music at Holiday Lights in the Gardenshe heart of the Holiday Lights in the Gardens is the Wedding Garden. At its center is a large Christmas tree surrounded by toy trains. The lighted trains circle the tree, amid more displays of illuminated gardens. The Wedding Garden gazebo, the site of many weddings, is brightly lit, and is the foreground for live entertainment. On opening night, a pair of gentlemen played guitars to the crowd.

The other central feature at the event was the jolly man himself. Santa and his wife made an appearance at the garden, a line of children waiting throughout the evening to have their moment with the famous man and his missus. Parents waited with cameras to record the event. Santa and his wife were perfect images of their legend.

 

Florida Botanical Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensFlorida Botanical Gardens opened in 2000, giving Pinellas County Florida another spectacular tourist attraction. The 160 acres is maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department but also by Pinellas County Master Gardeners, who volunteer thousands of hours each year. The expansive gardens include areas for both beauty and education. Walkways wind throughout the gardens, leading you through various types of foliage and displays. The gardens are organized by type. You will find the Herb Gardens, Tropical Fruit Garden, Succulent Garden, Butterfly Garden, and many more from a long list of interesting choices. The three formal gardens are guest favorites, which include the Wedding Garden, the Tropical Walk, and the Tropical Courtyard. Beyond these are trails that lead you through wilderness areas maintained by Florida Botanical Gardens.

 

Holiday Lights in the Gardens

Holiday Lights in the GardensThe Florida Botancial Gardens are in Largo, Florida. Largo is in Pinellas County, which is the peninsula that creates Tampa Bay. The county is home to Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach, Fort DeSoto Park, Honeymoon Island State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and many other famous attractions. The Florida Botanical Gardens is a perfect diversion from the beach, especially during the holiday evenings. The event proves even palm trees can put you in the holiday spirit. If you are on the Florida Gulf Coast for the holiday season, be sure to put the Holiday Lights in the Gardens on  you list of sights to see.

 

Other posts you might enjoy;

Salvador Dali Museum

The Segway Adventure at Clearwater Beach

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

 

Kite festival Treasure Island Florida

Veterans Day Fall Kite Festival at Treasure Island

Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI

Veterans Day giant kiteWe visited the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI on Sunday, hoping the clouds would part for some great kite photos. With overcast skies most of the day, we were happy to see clouds part in the late afternoon, right as we arrived. Big kites were in the sky, visible from miles away. Parking for the event was easy, making our arrival worry free. The beach at Treasure Island is enormous, providing kite flyers a huge expanse of sand. A giant heart shaped kite colored with stars and stripes was the biggest kite in the sky. Around it flew a good number of others, giving us plenty to see.

 

Unique Veterans Day Kite Festival

manta kiteWe were expecting the event to be the same as the festival in January but the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI was different. While not as many kites were in the air, the Veterans Day kite festival had some unexpected surprises. Because of the smaller number of kites, we were able to make our way across the sand with ease, viewing the kites close up – or at least as close as we could get from the ground. The Windworks kite tent was fun to visit, with lots of sport kites for sale. They looked fun but how would we know if we liked them if we could not try them? Fortunately the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI solved that problem for us. Because of the lighter crowd, we had the opportunity to get some free kite flying lessons. The sport kites employ four strings held by two handles. The number of things that a pro can get the kites to do is amazing. As it turned out, we were best at landing them, mostly by accident. The kites were well made, however, and held up to the abuse. We did manage to pull off a few successful tricks by the time we were done with our five minute lesson.

Kite shopThe personal attention and accessibility of the Veterans Day Fall Fly at TI helped it to earn high marks from us. We enjoyed the opportunities to talk to the kite flyers, the guys at the kite shop, and to the kite flying instructor. With some extra kiting experience under our belts, we made plans to possibly buy our own kites. We also set our schedules for Treasure Island Beach in January for the big kiting competition.

 

Anticipating Treasure Island Kite Competition

Giant kiteIf you love the beach and kite flying, the kite festivals at Treasure Island are must-see events. Veterans Day Fall Fly at Treasure Island was presented by Windworks Kite Store and the Eastern League Sport Kite Association. Be sure to make plans to visit Treasure Island January 16th through 18th for the Treasure Island Kite Festival and Sport Kite Competition.

 

 

Other posts you might enjoy

Sky Surfing Clearwater Beach

John’s Pass

Clearwater Color Run 2014

Chowder Challenge 2014

Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Discovering the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge 2014

Pass a Grille Chowder ChallengeThe Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge happened last weekend, November 8th and 9th, bringing a lively event to a beach community that is a bit different from the rest of its neighbors on the coast. Pass A Grille is a laid back Florida beach community, sitting on a relatively small section of island. It is the southernmost inhabited section of the barrier islands along Florida Gulf Coast of Pinellas County. It is located just south of St Pete Beach and just north of the uninhabited Shell Key. Pass A Grille might not be the kind of place where you wind up often, it being the end of the road, with no way out other than the way you came in. The fantastic white sands of the Florida Gulf Coast line its shores, with beautiful views to the south of the barrier islands there. In the heart of Pass A Grille you will find Hurley Park, with a picnic pavilion, a basketball court, and a baseball field. On November 8th and 9th this year, Hurley Park became the staging ground for the annual Chowder Challenge, a chowder cook-off that set area restaurants against each other in a very friendly competition.

 

Entering the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Chowder Challenge desertsWe arrived at the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge as inexperienced novices, new to the ways of the competition. Hurley Park was filled to the brim with chowder lovers who had arrived before us. Vender tents lined the perimeter, with the rest of the grass area occupied by dining tables, every one filled with chatting chowder challengers. Souvenirs were available along with an inviting table of deserts just outside the gates of the baseball field. Entering the main event area cost $20, an entrance fee that purchased a wristband pass into the chowder sampling area. We paid while still in mystery as to what we would get. To put it simply, the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge wound up being more than worth it.

 

Serving up the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Chowder Challenge chowdersEntering the baseball diamond we saw the participating restaurants for the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge lining the outer edge. Plenty of room was left over for milling in the center of the field, a space used by many to aim for the next bowl of chowder. We were handed rectangular trays with papers set on them that showed the names of the competing Tampa Bay area restaurants. The labeled tray was accompanied by a score card. It took only a moment to understand the game. Under pop up canopies the restaurant representatives waited with vats of chowder ready to serve the hungry crowds. When we visited the first table, we were served a tiny cup of chowder, placed carefully over the restaurant name. We went from table to table, collecting more of the small cups, placed over the corresponding names of the restaurants. Then it was off to taste the chowder at the dining tables spread across the lawn. It was time to decide who was king of the Chowder Challenge.

 

Chowder Challengers at Pass A Grille

The Chowder Challenge had some great competitors, including some of the best restaurants in the Tampa Bay region. One of the remarkable characters of the event is that every single booth had smiling participants, happy to talk to event attendees or pose for photos.

  • Chowder Challenge LoewsShells Chowder ChallengeBilly’s Stone Crab
  • Brass Monkey
  • Crabby Bills
  • Gennaro’s
  • Jackie’s on Corey
  • Leverocks Seafood House
  • Loews Don CeSar Resort & Spa
  • Middle Grounds Grill
  • PJs Oyster BarFriendly Fisherman at Chowder ChallengeNori Thai
  • PJ’s Oyster Bar
  • Rick’s Reef
  • Ricky T’s
  • RumFish Grill at Guy Harvey Outpost
  • Salty Rim
  • Shark Tales of St Pete Beach
  • Shell’s Seafood
  • Salty Rim at Chowder ChallengeLeverocks at Chowder ChallengeSt Pete Produce & Deli

 

We did our best to catch every name, and to taste every chowder! If we missed your restaurant at the Chowder Challenge or somehow left off your name, please let us know and we will add you to our list!

 

Choosing the Chowder Challenge Champion

Chowder Challenge votingOur attempt at picking a winner at the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge went well – at first. With the first eight chowders to choose from, we picked our winners. When we went back to sample eight more, the trouble began. There really weren’t any bad chowders. On the higher end of the tasting scale were some of the best chowders we’d ever tried. Some topped out the list on traditional style chowders while others served up recipes we hadn’t heard of before, such as the Rumfish version of Caribbean Lion Fish Chowder or the Nori Thai chowder which included coconut. By the time we were done with our second tray of samples, we had to go get more score cards because our first ones were destroyed with too many conflicting marks – and yes, they had chowder on them. The final scoring was tallied via plastic gold coins, handed to us when we purchased our entry. Attendees received only three of the golden coins with which to vote. Each restaurant table had business cards or menus to remind us who they were, but they also had plastic beach buckets. The buckets were for the gold coins. Attendees were to choose their top chowders and drop the coins off at their three favorite restaurant booths. Chowder Challenge Chowder choiceWe grudgingly eliminated the runners up and dropped off our coins. Because we also made a mess of the second score cards, we can no longer tell you where those coins went. Our personal favorites were Ricky T’s, Salty Rim, Shells Seafood, Brass Monkey, Leverocks, and Loews Don CeSar, with our unique-recipe favorite going to Rumfish Restauant’s Lionfish Chowder. We hope the others will understand. We left the Chowder Challenge with full bellies and smiles on our faces, thanks to all the great chowders.

 

​Official Winners of the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge 2014

The official winners according the official Chowder Challenge Website were:

Golden Ladle:  RumFish Grill at Guy Harvey Outpost for its Caribbean Lionfish Chowder
Peoples Choice 1st Place:  Shells for its New England Clam Chowder
People’s Choice 2nd Place:  Gennaro’s for its Gennaro’s Clam Chowder
People’s Choice 3rd Place:  Friendly Fisherman for its Clam Chowder
Celebrity Chef’s Choice:  Shark Tales for its Fresh Seafood Clam Chowder
Celebrity Chef’s Honorable Mention:  Lowes – Don CeSar for its Conch Chowder
Celebrity Chef’s Honorable Mention:  Shells on St Pete Beach for its New England Clam Chowder

 

Looking forward to the Next Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge

Billys at Chowder ChallengeWe will return next year to the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge and here is why. The food was remarkable, giving us a wide variety of the best chowders our region had to offer. Despite the miniature size of the bowls, we were eventually unable to get to the bottom of the final samples, so it was satisfying for the big eaters too. The restaurant participants were all smiles, happy to be there and very personable when approached. Further, and possibly best, were the fellow attendees. The tables were large, fitting more than one group at a sitting. When we sat down, the conversations were easy to start because each person attending was also sampling the chowders. Don Cesar at Chowder ChallengeThe exchange of ideas began immediately, concerning which chowders were best, and which restaurants had cooked them. Because of the constant flow of attendees moving from the chowder serving area to the seats outside the baseball field, we wound up sitting in two different locations, each time striking up conversation with other happy chowder tasters.

For all of those reasons, we are looking forward to the Pass A Grille Chowder Challenge next year and we hope to see you there too.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

5 Favorite Party Spots at Clearwater Beach

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

John’s Pass