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City asks neighbors' opinion on the return of St. Armands winter fest

Residents can email their opinions through June 2.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. May 12, 2023
The ice rink was a big draw for kids at the 2022 St. Armands Circle Winter Spectacular.
The ice rink was a big draw for kids at the 2022 St. Armands Circle Winter Spectacular.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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Residents of Longboat Key are being asked to send in their opinions on the possibility of another St. Armands Circle Winter Spectacular. 

Last year’s festival had residents surrounding the Circle up in arms about the potential traffic such a festival would bring to the Circle. The main concern was traffic flow to and from the already congested area during the holidays. 

“The city is asking barrier island residents and merchants to send an email with their opinions about whether or not the Winter Festival at the St. Armands Circle Park should run again,” St. Armands Residents Association President Chris Goglia said in an email. 

His email detailed what some of the main issues with hosting another event may bring and include: 

  • The legality of leasing a public park right of way to a private business 
  • The appropriateness of closing down a city park for over four months for private use, which would include the six-week festival and three months to repair grass 
  • The appropriateness of locating a festival in a known traffic choke point during one of the busiest traffic weeks of the year (between Christmas and New Year’s) vs. at another city venue such as Robarts Arena
  • The “fit” of this festival with St. Armands businesses 

A special email address, [email protected], has been created by the city of Sarasota for residents and interested parties to send their opinions. The comment period ends June 2. Anonymous comments will not be accepted.

“If we want to eliminate traffic mayhem in St. Armands, this opportunity is important to respond to for all our neighbors,” Commissioner BJ Bishop said in an email.

Goglia also wrote about what information should be included in the email, such as your opinion on a festival return, any explanation about your opinion, name and address and which community you are part of such as Longboat Key, Lido Key or Bird Key. 

Ahead of last year’s event, Mayor Ken Schneier wrote a letter to the city on behalf of the town and its residents detailing the barrier’s island’s concerns with the origin of the festival and the potential for exacerbating an already present traffic issue. 

However, following the festival Schneier reported not hearing any complaints from residents directly related to the festival. 

“I heard virtually no complaints at all about the fest,” he said. “There were some traffic issues getting downtown, but I am not sure any of them centered on getting around St. Armands.”

The festival ran for six weeks, from Nov. 18 to Jan. 3. It was open from 4-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. 

Activities and attractions included: 

  • Synthetic ice skating rink 
  • Carousel 
  • Trackless train rides 
  • Photographs inside a life-size snow globe
  • Crafting and games 
  • Free daily entertainment by local performers 
  • St. Armands Circle merchants scavenger hunt

Correction: This article updated with the correct email address for comment submission: [email protected].