by Rachel Freeman
The St. Petersburg sunshine beamed down on Williams Park on Saturday, February 2. Olga Bof, the founder and executive director of Keep Saint Petersburg Local, the organization that puts on Localtopia each year, was thrilled to see the warm weather after the forecast had called for rain.
The Sunshine City Lives up to its Name
“We were all so nervous about the weather,” said Bof. “The rain was really threatening because over 200 small businesses and community organizations were counting on us. The whole city was chanting for us.”
Bof said that she and her supporters manifested tons of positive energy in the days leading up to the event.
“It created something on a spiritual level. We kept hearing about the bad weather and the polar vortex, but instead, we created a love vortex.”
Localtopia, St. Pete’s community celebration of all things local, kicked off their 6th year at 10 a.m. The warm sunshine welcomed in happy St. Petians as they ate, drank, danced to local music, and supported the ‘Burg’s small business scene.
Standing out from the Rest
Unlike other local markets, Localtopia only happens once a year. The anticipation and overwhelming community support for the event distinguishes it from other festivals and markets in St. Pete.
“It’s not just a day we get to eat and drink local,” explained Bof. “It’s not a regular event or market. The community’s support of these businesses helps them continue to thrive. Because of the support, they’re able to give back to the community.”
An Opportunity to Give Back
One way Localtopia gave back to the local community was providing a space for kids to make Valentine’s Day cards. These cards were given to other children who are in foster care or homeless, according to Bof. Localtopia was also able to feed over 2,000 hungry people and kids, Bof said.
“How blessed are we that we get to do this? I walked around feeling so giddy, seeing the joy on people’s faces,” said Bof.
“We created a shield of love around the city.”
Good Vibes Only
Palpable, positive energy permeated through Localtopia as happy locals strolled around the park.
“We had that warm and fuzzy feeling. The energy felt so good,” said Taylor Prater, the co-founder and brand manager of Made Coffee, one of Localtopia’s vendors. It was Made Coffee’s second year at Localtopia.
Prater’s favorite part of the event was Plantopia village. She really enjoyed the opportunity for makers and locals to come together at the event.
“There’s a real sense of comradery because we all know each other well and support one another,” said Prater.
“Localtopia gives people a chance to see what St. Pete has to offer. It’s mind blowing how many awesome small businesses we have here.”
Local jewelry maker Julie Angerosa, owner of the shop REJuled, said that Localtopia reminded her of the things that attracted her to move to St. Pete in the first place. This was her second year vending at the event.
“I started REJuled in this city and am thrilled with the ways this city has supported my business to flourish over the past two years,” said Angerosa.
Angerosa enjoyed the opportunity to connect with new customers as well as long-time admirers and loyal patrons. She felt grateful for Keep St.Petersburg Local and for Bof’s efforts in hosting an amazing event.
The Sounds of the ‘Burg
Anthony Goodwin of the band Blackbird Morning had a blast playing music at Localtopia. His favorite part of the event was getting to see the crowd dancing and appreciating their set. He said that the band felt completely free and in their element during the performance.
“It was a magical day,” said Goodwin. “It was especially cool to look out from the stage and feel like you are creating a vibe for all the people in our city that are trying to make it the best it can be. It was inspiring to see so many ages, styles, and artistic people out there.”
Goodwin thought the event was especially fun for families. He loved seeing the little ones out in front, dancing and experiencing the music.
“The St. Pete community is primed to foster creativity and community,” said Goodwin. “Localtopia gives the musical artists a fantastic outdoor venue with excellent sound and an opportunity to be heard by a great mix of people.”
Rebekah Pulley of the band Rebekah Pulley and the Reluctant Prophets felt honored to play live music on the Localtopia stage. The slightly elevated vantage point of the stage allowed her to see the entire celebration from above. She watched the happy interactions with gratitude.
“It’s like your birthday, your favorite holiday, and a vacation rolled into one,” said Pulley. “It gives us a sense of local pride and reminds us of how St. Pete residents and our local businesses are in a sort of symbiotic relationship. Our local shops and artists need our local residents to help them thrive. Our local residents need their local shops and artists in order to allow them a vibrant palette of culture.”
Better Than Ever
Pulley has played at Localtopia for years, but was she was especially impressed with the execution and organization of this year’s event.
“I’m absolutely floored at how Olga is able to make something as huge as Localtopia 2019 a reality,” said Pulley.
Another local organization at Localtopia was NOMADstudio: The Art Bus Project. This was their 5th year in attendance at the event. The mobile art studio brought creative, artistic vibes to Williams Park.
“It was really exciting to see the St. Pete community engage with the Art Bus at Localtopia,” said Olivia Scully of NOMADstudio. “We love when people come out to paint with their friends, family and neighbors. This is one of the main goals of NOMADstudio.This event allowed the public to see a little aspect of what we do and offered them an opportunity to learn more about the art programming we provide out in other areas of our community.”
Love in the Air
The coolest thing Scully experienced at Localtopia was a marriage proposal at the art bus. A couple popped the big question by painting a proposal on the bus.
“She said yes! It was a NOMAD first,” said Scully.
Scully believes that Localtopia is more than just a community event.
“It’s more than just the makers who sell there and the people who come to shop and show support. It offers an entire day of opportunity to learn about the people in our community,” she said. “NOMADstudio is a non-profit, and our main takeaway from Localtopia is the engagement with the community. Interacting and learning about those that are working, creating and living in our area strengthens our community, and overall our relationship with each other.”
Localtopia wrapped up at 5 p.m. on Saturday. After a full day of live music, food, drinks, and shopping, many people went home feeling proud of their Sunshine City.
“I really did feel that there was a particular magic to this year,” said Bof. “Every year the community brings the best. It’s such a happy place and everyone is in such a good mood. It’s the day the city gets to celebrate everything that makes it special.”