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Chad Ruis worked on a piece of artwork during the Siesta Fiesta festival last year.
Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 11, 2013 4 years ago

Merchants put Siesta Key on the map with Siesta Fiesta


Every year, at the peak of tourist season, Siesta Key Village bustles with a curious crowd browsing crafts and fine art during Siesta Fiesta. What started as a juried fine-art show 41 years ago to attract visitors to the sleepy Siesta Key Village has now blossomed into a large-scale annual street party featuring 250 artists from 30 states.

Siesta Fiesta was born over a cup of coffee in 1971, between Foxy Lady owner Lorry Eible and Louise Chappel, who at the time owned antique shop The Key Hole in the Village.

“We used to talk about what we could do to get some kind of recognition of what we are as far as Siesta Village goes,” said Eible. “We came up with the idea of a juried art show in the streets.”

In 1972, the Siesta Key Village Association rounded up 12 local artists and put on the first Siesta Fiesta. Siesta Key merchants met at 8 a.m., before their shops opened, to organize the show. They used the proceeds to beautify Siesta Key Village.

“It started off as a high-level art show with real artisans who were absolutely local,” Eible said. “They needed exposure and so did we, so it worked both ways.” Merchants such as John Davidson, Sunny Sears, Dale Six, Cheryl Duley, Eible and Chappel spent countless hours working together to put on the show to help the Village grow into what it is today.

“It was a closer-knit community back then,” Eible said. “A lot of the newer merchants aren’t as involved in helping the Village grow like we were in the beginning, because now we have a developed area.”

In a few years, as the show grew in popularity, merchants needed help organizing it. First they hired Siesta Key resident Sharon Krall. In the late 80s, early 90s when the show had grown even larger, Howard Alan, of Howard Alan Events, took over the show. Alan’s company still organizes the event today.

“He made it a lot more popular,” said Davidson.

Alan remembers Siesta residents opposing the huge show his first year because the streets had to be closed off.

“In the beginning, Siesta Fiesta was a major party and then really toned down over the years,” Alan said. “Merchants and restaurants wanted to make Siesta Fiesta a respectable event.”

Elaine Laurent, a vendor of Siesta Fiesta who makes mixed-media art and lived on Siesta Key in her late 20s, remembers attending the show with her grandmother as a teenager.

“It’s evolved. It was a bit more exclusive and didn’t have the craft side for a long time,” Laurent said.

Although Siesta Fiesta is not the juried high-class art show the merchants intended for it to be in the beginning, there is little doubt that it served its original purpose of helping put Siesta Key on the map. And on April 13 and April 14, thousands of people will flock the streets of Siesta Key to browse the variety of arts and crafts offered.

Fair-goers will find art that ranges from $25 to $30,000. A portion of the proceeds still benefits the Siesta Key Village Association. According to Alan, this year they expect 60,000 people to attend during the course of the weekend.

Also this year there will be an art festival giveaway. Art festival patrons can register to win a 12-inch-by-18 inch print of photographer Linda Mayeswin’s “Day at the Beach,” valued at $85.

If You Go
Siesta Fiesta
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14
Where: Ocean Boulevard and Beach Road in Siesta Key Village
Navigational Address: 5124 Ocean Blvd.
Why: To support the arts, Siesta Key Village Association and the community
Admission: Free and open to the public
More info: [email protected] or call 561-746-6615

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