Gasparilla Island was packed with visitors on both ends this weekend with the Strawberry Festival serving up hundreds of its sensational namesake shortcakes Saturday on the south side and the fourth annual Boca Masters Art Festival both days benefiting from the addition of wine sales and new business options, including Patrick Vollmer's Tiki Bar and Nell Iba's new Boca Grande Travel Accessories and More on the north side.
"We're offering a little bit of everything for someone on the road," Iba said as customers oohed and ahhed over the goods in her tiny showroom.
Vollmer's laid-back 25-seat Tiki Bar with music in the courtyard of Patrick's Thai Bistro and Sushi is open from 3:30 p.m. to sunset nightly. It was busy all weekend.
Boca Grande Masters Art Festival organizers, from left: Belinda Herrera, producer Richard Sullivan and Rebecca Sullivan.
Richard Sullivan, organizer of the Boca Grande Masters Art Festival, was pleased by its drawing power this weekend. He said he planned to continue to enlarge it next year by offering cigars in addition to wine tastings, which made their debut this year.
"It's such a small show. We want to keep changing artists and rotate the work," Sullivan said. "If we had the same artists back every year, people would think they had seen it all before. This way there is always something new for people to see and do as they stroll by."
Proceeds from the Boca Grande Masters Art Festival benefit the Harry Chapin Food Bank. But Sullivan's efforts are not connected with the Taste of Boca Grande run by Thor Johnson, Donna Lutton and Nick Kaiser of Boca Grande, also a Harry Chapin Food Bank benefactor.
Boca Grande Travel Accessories and More
Owner: Nell Iba
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Offerings: resort travel wear, accessories, jewelry, colectibles, papmpered pet items
Where: 5800 Gasparilla Road, Courtyard Plaza (former Chamber of Commerce site).
Six miles down the road in the village of Boca Grande, an early rush of customers ensured the Boca Grande United Methodist Church Strawberry Festival would be a success although whether or not it will top the $75,000 raised for 21 charities a year ago won't be certain until after expenses and receipts have been tallied.
Hundreds of visitors mingled with islanders munching bratwursts and scooping up strawberry shortcakes.
Co-Chair Beth Paxton said the event was a success.
"All the baked goods have sold and we seem to have had a good crowd," a tired but smiling Paxton said.
Proceeds this year will benefit the following eight charities:
Strawberry Festival island charities
Boca Grande Child Care Center
Friends of the Community Center children's programs
Catholic Charities in Arcadia
Children First, Sarasota County
Good Samaritan Fund
Grace Place Mission for Kids in Naples
Kids Needs of Greater Englewood.
Los Rieles/La Vega School in Dominican Republic