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East County Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 4 years ago

New year brings excitement to Lakewood Ranch area

Here's a list of must-attend events in 2018 in the Sarasota-Manatee area.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

When it comes to family fun, the East County area has plenty to offer, and the 2018 lineup is sure to please. Once again, there’s something for everyone, from sporting events to festivals and parades and, of course, wine tastings.

Keep an eye on our community calendar throughout the year to make sure you don’t miss any of the excitement. Here is a selection of events for 2018.


Duo KVAS Volodymyr Kostenko, below, and Anton Savchenko, above, will perform in this year's circus. Courtesy image.

Feb. 9 to March 4 at
Nathan Benderson Park

Each year, Circus Sarasota boasts a roster of international artists who push their limits, leaving audiences mesmerized. This year’s performance, titled “Ovation,” honors the legacy of the circus arts and those who have impacted the art form. Included in this year’s lineup are hand balancers Duo KVAS, Swiss juggling master Kris Kremo, Portuguese rola artist Dany Daniel and the flying trapeze act, The Flying Cortes, among others.



Feb. 8-11 at
St. Barbara Greek
Orthodox Church

If you like cultural affairs, St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church’s annual Glendi is a special treat. The event at the Sarasota church features Greek dance and music demonstrations, tours of the church and plenty of Greek fare for purchase — everything from baklava to moussaka.



March 3 at Nathan Benderson Park

This regional craft and beer festival will feature live music, as well as the Tampa Bay Bucs’ Kids Zone and Locker Room Trailer, vendor booths and exhibits, a petting zoo and plenty of food and drink. There will be free stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, rowing and remote control sailing demonstrations. For information, visit


April 13-15  at Premier Sports Campus

If you want to start the year with sports action, the American Flag Football League is hosting its seven-on-seven tournament at Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. The tournament will feature more than 1,000 amateur teams and four professional teams. Teams are battling in a traditional bracket format with a winner-take-all $1 million final in July that pits the pros against the amateurs. Scouts will be on-site to evaluate players during the tournament.


Courtney Calo of Sarasota kept the music flowing as a member of Blue Skye Pipes and Drum during the 2017 Tribute to Heroes Parade.


May 27 at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch

The annual Tribute to Heroes Parade at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch started with a handful of people and has evolved into a communitywide celebration of military veterans. The event features marching bands, a bicycle-decorating contest and more. Annual favorites are Blue Skye Pipes and Drums, Crewe De Soto and Bradentucky Bombers Roller Derby. The event is run by Lakewood Ranch Community Activities.



Oct. 13-14, 20-21 and 27-28 at Hunsader Farms

The Hunsader family’s annual Pumpkin Festival includes live music, hayrides, a corn maze, scarecrow displays, a smorgasbord of food, a variety of crafts, a petting zoo, a children’s train and even oddities, such as a frog-jumping championship. In the past, the festival has boasted a motorcross stunt and crossbow shows and juggling acts. This event is alcohol-free to keep it family focused, and there’s even a carnival-style game area dedicated to raising money for local charities. This year’s show lineup has not yet been released.


Jeff Golomb leads a flash mob for Team I Am Pink during the 2017 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. He and his girlfriend, Rachel Hagoune, a survivor, have been doing the flash mob for three years.


Oct. 20 at Nathan Benderson Park

Few events foster a sense of camaraderie and purpose like the American Cancer Society’s annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Last year’s event, held for the first time at Nathan Benderson Park, drew 18,000 participants dressed in pink T-shirts, tutus and other festive attire as they walked for awareness and to raise money to fight breast cancer. Organizers hope the 2018 event can raise more than $500,000 — about $125,000 more than the 2017 figure.



Oct. 26 at Lakewood Main Street

The annual Halloween event offers a Spooktacular Maze, balloon arts, Halloween treats, dancers, a costume contest and live music. It is one of the biggest events run by Lakewood Ranch Community Activities. Make sure to dress in a costume.


Nov. 10 at the
Sarasota Polo Club

The 17th annual Suncoast Food and Wine Festival returns. The event, presented each year by the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, will feature dozens of restaurants offering samples of their finest cuisine — everything from fresh oysters to burgers to truffles and cheeses. There will be many national and international wines and craft beers for tasting. Live music enhances the ambiance of this event which raises funds for local charities and Rotary programs. Over the past 16 years, more than $1.5 million has been distributed through a grant process.



Dec. 14 at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch

Santa won’t be coming on his sleigh pulled by reindeer, but instead will arrive in a horse-drawn carriage. Organized by Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, this annual event includes holiday favorites such as photos with Santa, sugar cookie decorating, music and dance performances and other holiday festivities. It also features a slide with real snow. The night is so well attended shuttles from off-site parking areas have been set up to transport visitors. For information, visit

*Story modified Jan. 8, 2017.

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