- February 21, 2022
More than 100 Longboat Key residents turned out on a chilly evening for the Chamber of Commerce’s first Savor the Sounds concert featuring the Billy Rice Band.
The town’s second event at the Town Center Green on the site of the now-demolished Amore restaurant building appeared to be a hit across the board Feb. 29. Residents mingled with their neighbors and enjoyed the band’s country tunes.
“It’s wonderful,” Vilia Johnson said. “We’re happy to support whatever goes on here. It’s great for the neighborhood to come together.”
The consensus was that the venue and idea for the event were spot-on — the weather, not so much. At the beginning of the event, as everyone set up their tables and chairs and picnics, the gorgeous evening was a hot topic, but as the sun sank, so did the temperature.
“So far, so good,” Barb Lansink said. “Wish it were a little warmer, but tonight the no-see-ums won’t bite.”
Town officials were on hand, passing out comment cards as part of an ongoing project to help inform what further development should take place at the site. Soon, work will begin on a series of basic improvements designed to raise much of the property to assist drainage and level the land to be more useful. Parking improvements also are planned.
On March 11, the town is planning a formal charrette, with the help of a consultant, to further gather residents’ opinions and priorities for the land, originally purchased to be the site of a privately funded arts, culture and education building. That event takes place at 9 a.m. at Temple Beth Israel, 567 Bay Isles Road.
Beer and canned wine were available for purchase, but all food was BYOB. Many groups elected to bring picnic baskets, while those who had bought group tables for the concert brought prepared hot food, and still others took a stroll to Publix for sandwiches before the concert. Chamber of Commerce President Gail Loefgren said she hopes that future concerts will attract food trucks to the Town Center Green.
Folks who had purchased tables for the event rarely used them as more than a place to set their picnics, instead standing, talking and drinking through the event, though a couple tables were still set with table cloths, wine glasses and fresh flowers.
“I was saying to Gail [Loefgren], once it gets going, we’ll be able to do [awards for] best table decor or something,” Irina LaRose said. “I think once it gets warmer, we’ll have more people.”
This is actually the second iteration of the Savor the Sounds series; the first was held in 2016 at Bayfront Park.
“People love it, and they keep asking for this every month,” Debbie Shaffer said. “I like this a whole lot better than where [Savor the Sounds] was.”
Savor the Sounds is planned to take place on the final Saturday of each month through May, with a different band each time.
Billy Rice and his band opened the concert with country tunes that were upbeat enough to get people moving.
“We didn’t know if we were going to come out to 10 people with the weather the way it is,” Rice said.
Town officials teamed up with the chamber in November to sponsor a holiday-tree lighting ceremony, which included snacks and assorted drinks served by representatives of several town organizations, such as the Garden Club, Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club, face-to-face with residents. That event was a hit as well.
“We saw at the end of November that people like to come together in a town square environment,” Carol Erker said. “It’s just a shame it was chilly. It might have scared people away at the last minute. I thought about getting my HOA here to get a table and make it a social event.”
The sounds of the Billy Rice Band rocked Longboat Key until 7 p.m., drawing attention to the previously defunct space.
“It was great seeing people coming out of Publix looking around like, ‘What’s going on?’” Chamber Member Brad Marner said.
Most attendees stayed until the end of the concert before packing up the remnants of their picnics and heading home.
“On the first time out, I think everybody had a good time,” Loefgren said.