When pioneer families arrived in the Tampa Bay area to make homestead claims in the southern frontier before the turn of the last century, they found in the young Clearwater a population determined to build the ideal location for raising families and conducting business. Residents placed strong importance on establishing cultural and community activities that move a city above mere day-to-day living.
That enterprising mindset has stayed with Clearwater over the ensuing decades, setting it apart as a hub for cultural and family events, surpassing many cities its size in that regard.
Today Clearwater lists a year-round calendar of cultural and community activities that draw people to the city in record numbers. Some of those events are listed here.
Clearwater Jazz Holiday
ossibly no single event in Clearwater is better known than the annual Jazz Holiday held over the third weekend of October. Sponsored by local businesses, the four-day concert series in Coachman Park is performed for downtown visitors — some of whom come from as far as New York just for the music. Now in its 22nd year, the Jazz Holiday brings renowned musicians from all corners of the globe to perform. Throughout the years jazz illuminaries such as DeeDee Bridgewater, Stanley Clarke, Spyro Gyra and Patti Austin have brought their creative talents to Clearwater. With the backdrop of the setting sun and the waterway, some could argue there is no better way to appreciate jazz in its many forms.
The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is a unique community event, free to the public and administered by a charitable foundation, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation Inc.
The Jazz Holiday raises funds to benefit jazz education through scholarship and educational activities every year. The festival is administered by an all-volunteer staff, which plans and executes the hundreds of details needed to accommodate the artists and the more than 150,000 visitors who attend each year.
The Fine Arts Fair and Arts & Crafts Show
apitalizing on Clearwater’s near-perfect fall and spring weather, Cleveland Street in downtown Clearwater is transformed into a fine art gallery and an avenue of arts and crafts twice each year, during April and October.
Food vendors, live music and street performers provide a festive atmosphere as tens of thousands of visitors view the impressive displays of hand-crafted works of hundreds of artists. Sculpture, oil and watercolor paintings, photography, handcrafted Buccaneers memorabilia and many other items are showcased, providing something for art enthusiasts at every level. The Fine Arts Fair and Arts & Crafts Show is produced by a professional event company and presented by the Clearwater Main Street’s Promotions Committee.
Trailfest and Holiday Marketplace and Bazaar
he opening of the Clearwater section of the Pinellas Trail on December 2, 1997, known as Trailfest, was described as “one long block party.” Communities along the 34-mile strip featured attractions from musical performances and safety exhibits to tours of historic homes and a fishing competition.
The annual celebration of the trail’s completion is also now augmented with the “Holiday Marketplace and Bazaar” sponsored by Clearwater’s Main Street program. With carnival games, the Farmer’s Market, non-stop entertainment and artisans selling holiday jpgt items, the local community turns out in droves to participate.
Close to 90,000 people make use of the linear Pinellas Trail park each month, including cyclists, runners, skaters, walkers and those who just enjoy the outdoors. Designated as part of the White House Community Millennium Trail and featured in the 1999 American Rails To Trails Conservancy Calendar, Pinellas Trail is a source of pride for the region.
Clearwater’s year-round calendar of community and cultural activities draws people to the city.
hile residents of northern states shiver through their December holiday parades, Clearwater residents and visitors enjoy theirs in comfort. A true community event, the Clearwater Holiday Parade encompasses a broad spectrum of groups from all over the city. The 2001 Holiday Parade was the largest ever, with more than 1,000 participants and 125 floats. Boy Scout Troops, clowns, marching bands, local schools, businesses and churches participated. Leading the parade were the city’s top officials, who sat in convertibles, waved on by the estimated 20,000 attendees.
The parade is organized by Clearwater Festivals, a non-profit civic organization that produces community events in association with the City of Clearwater.
Say No to Drugs Race
learwater attracts many elite runners who come from all over the world to train during the mild winters. For the last 13 years, in December they join hundreds of local runners at Clearwater’s Coachman Park for the annual “Say No to Drugs Holiday Classic Race.” The principal sponsor and organizer of the race is the Dianetics Athletic Association of the Church of Scientology. The race includes a 10K and 5K, and the two-mile Fitness Fun Walk across sparkling Clearwater harbor to the white sands of Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.
Elite runners from the local area, northern states and countries as far abroad as Kenya and Russia participate. A $2,000 prize purse is split between the winners. Other prizes and awards are handed out every year at the breakfast following the run, traditionally held at the Harborview Center.
The “Say No to Drugs Holiday Classic” was started by Sandra Johnson of the Dianetics Athletic Association in 1988. Chris Alexander, race co-director, said it was started “to spread the word that a drug-free life is more fun. To the people who take them, drugs seem like the solution. In reality, they are society’s most widespread problem.”
The race is organized by more than 200 volunteers. Among the associate sponsors are Q105, Family Life Chiropractic, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Metagenics, Dig Me Sports, Sweet Wheat and Dimmit Land Rover, who have been supplying the pace car for more than 10 years.
Each year, proceeds are donated to one or more local charities. Proceeds for 2000 went to the local Boy and Girl Scouts and the Drug-Free Marshals drug prevention program.
Downtown By Dusk Concerts
ne Friday a month, Station Square Park becomes a music and meeting venue as it fills with local residents who come to enjoy concerts. The free performances attract young and old alike, and it is not uncommon to catch local elected officials enjoying the music or conversing with constituents.
As most of the concerts begin close to five o’clock, they bring in employees of local businesses. Food and beverages are available for sale, and local charities and non-profit groups sell beer and wine, using the proceeds to fund their programs. Concerts feature local talent such as Patty Samphey, the Swinging Mooks and Orquestra Infinidad.
The Clearwater Beautification and Development Association, an outreach group of the Church of Scientology, first organized these concerts several years ago to bring more people to downtown Clearwater.
very Wednesday morning from October to April, downtown Clearwater takes on the air of an old-time market. Vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade breads, fine coffee and gifts for friends and family fill the downtown police station’s parking lot. Shoppers and browsers start arriving as early as 8:00 a.m.
Six years ago, the market was merely an idea by Clearwater resident Pat Fernandez to bring people downtown. Fernandez wanted a market that would feature local produce vendors and crafters. Once the city gave the go-ahead, the Downtown Farmer’s Market was born. The Market was an immediate success, and soon Pat had to enlist her husband Bob to help. With the continued support of the City of Clearwater and the Downtown Development Board, the Market has continued to grow.
The success and expansion of the Farmer’s Market did not escape the notice of the city of Safety Harbor, who requested Bob’s help in starting their own market. Held on Thursday mornings, the Safety Harbor Farmer’s Market is run by the city’s Chamber of Commerce, and is becoming a going concern.
The Clearwater Downtown Farmer’s Market, however, is not resting on its laurels. The sixth anniversary celebration was held with free cake and coffee the second week of February, and special theme weeks and entertainment are being added for the enjoyment of all shoppers.
Fun ‘N’ Sun Festival
hat began as a parade sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce in 1954 has blossomed into nearly a full month’s worth of activities. Celebrating the good times and good weather of Clearwater, the annual Fun ‘N’ Sun Festival includes nearly 50 events, ranging from concerts at Coachman Park and Pier 60 to a 5K run, craft fairs and special events for children and seniors. The Festival takes place from mid-April to early May, taking advantage of Clearwater’s best weather. Events take place throughout the city, making it convenient for all to enjoy.
Last year the Festival attracted 160,000 people. The festivities culminate in a nighttime parade that brings 50,000 spectators and consists of more than 100 floats. Starting at Crest Lake Park, the parade wends its way down Cleveland Street, through the heart of downtown, ending by the water’s edge.
ach year, thousands of people pour into this temporary storybook village in downtown Clearwater to enjoy the lights, sounds and holiday spirit that make Winter Wonderland an annual favorite. Sponsored by the Church of Scientology for the last nine years, Winter Wonderland benefits homeless and underprivileged children and families through the Red Cross and Everybody’s Tabernacle Homeless Intervention Program.
Though there is much for children of all ages to enjoy, the younger ones are most attracted to the pony rides, skating rink, petting zoo, the Hot Chocolate House, a “Bouncy House”, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus and visits with Mr. Claus. Local artists entertain with singing, dancing, animal tricks and interactive performances.
Admission to the event, which runs during the three weeks before Christmas, is free to the public, but guests are encouraged to bring canned food, toys and cash donations, which are forwarded to the receiving charities.