A 12 months in the past, tens of hundreds of individuals packed into downtown St. Petersburg to attend Localtopia, the large “group celebration of all issues native.” That’s type of surreal in that the nation began to shut down weeks later.
Maintain St. Petersburg Native has been producing the occasion since 2014. Localtopia 2020 was the top of the competition’s success, with greater than 300 distributors and an estimated 30,000 folks in attendance.
After which the pandemic got here, hitting native companies particularly exhausting.
However Olga Bof, founding father of Maintain St. Pete Native, has discovered a option to maintain the competition once more this 12 months, with diminished attendance capability, 160 distributors and strict tips that adhere to CDC, county and metropolis necessities.
The competition’s footprint will likely be enclosed with marked entrances and exits, that includes temperature checks at every. Workers will monitor the gang and folks will likely be requested to attend if the competition has reached capability. Streets surrounding the park will likely be closed to visitors, permitting additional room for attendees.
“Although its not the largest 12 months, it is going to be crucial 12 months,” Bof stated. “It sort of jogs my memory of the primary 12 months. That 12 months we helped (the distributors) develop their companies, this 12 months we’re serving to them keep in enterprise.”
Localtopia is the fruits of Bof’s decade-long effort to advertise St. Petersburg small companies, artists and group organizations.
The trail for founding Maintain St. Petersburg Native started round 2009, when Bof was trying into opening a youngsters’s e book and toy retailer however shortly discovered that she wouldn’t be capable to compete with Amazon and different giant booksellers with no help community.
Her analysis led her to find the American Unbiased Enterprise Alliance. A seed was planted to begin an identical native coalition.
“There was nothing unifying native companies in St. Pete,” she stated.
In the meantime, as increasingly more small companies started to pop up in St. Petersburg and the 600 block of Central Ave. crammed with artists and indie boutiques, Bof started writing a weekly column profiling them for I Love the Burg. She wrote as “The Localista” to advertise shopping for native and collaborated with photographer Sheri Kendrick on the columns.
After a 12 months, momentum and group help grew.
On Nov. 19, 2011, the Unbiased Enterprise Alliance, Maintain St. Petersburg Native was launched in affiliation with the American Unbiased Enterprise Alliance. The mission is to “construct a thriving native financial system and a singular group” by “nurturing connections for and performing because the voice of locally-owned, unbiased companies and by elevating consciousness of the significance of shopping for native.”
Native tattoo artist Michael Keller had designed the Maintain St. Pete Native emblem for stickers, however gave it to the nonprofit group.
At their launch celebration at NOVA 535 on Jan. 31, 2012, Maintain St. Petersburg Native already had 50 members, whom they attracted by constructing a buzz on social media.
Greater than 300 folks attended the celebration.
“It was a communal second and feast and all people was so buzzed, it was palpable,” Bof stated.
When the celebration was over, Maintain St. Pete Native had 50 extra members.
Quick ahead a 12 months, throughout which the group had a Free Hug Fest on the Saturday Morning Market to advertise native love.
After their one 12 months celebration bash at NOVA that includes native companies and artists, Bof stated they have been pondering up concepts of easy methods to replicate the cuddling occasion on a bigger scale.
“The thought for Localtopia was born,” Bof stated.
Bof set her sights on Williams Park and received the Metropolis of St. Petersburg to co-sponsor the occasion. In 2014, there have been 100-125 distributors and an estimated 5,000-8,000 folks attended.
Bof stated the occasion helped Maintain St. Pete Native develop as a corporation whereas serving to native companies develop.
Mom Kombucha is one enterprise that grew like gangbusters after giving out samples of their homebrewed fermented tea on the first Localtopia.
“We had simply concepted our model and thought this is able to be an ideal place to get in entrance of individuals and get suggestions, see which flavors would hit,” stated Tonya Donati, co-founder of Mom Kombucha. “It was so overwhelmingly constructive it strengthened what we have been doing, that we have been heading in the right direction.”
They began merchandising on the Saturday Morning Market, then wholesaling to native enterprise, lots of which have been additionally Localtopia distributors. Finally the model moved into Rolling Oats and Earth Origins. By the tip of 2019, the model was bought in about 900 Publix places all through the state.
The competition grew bigger through the years, as did St. Petersburg. It at all times occurs at Williams Park.
Julie Dye, proprietor of knickknack line Blossom and Shine, has been promoting at Localtopia for the previous few years. She has a weekly presence on the Saturday Morning Market and a studio at ArtLofts.
“It’s my greatest occasion of the 12 months,” she stated. “It’s even higher than vacation gross sales. I get new prospects and make more cash than the 12 months earlier than each time.”
With these successes in thoughts, and with the data that the pandemic has robbed many distributors the chance to promote their work, Bof felt the accountability to go forward with this 12 months’s competition.
This 12 months’s occasion options 4 retail and humanities villages, a meals truck alley and separate foods and drinks part. Artist Jujmo will stay paint a automobile for Carmada and the Nomad Artwork Bus may have socially distanced actions. Stay music by native bands will occur all day within the bandshell.
“We notice how essential the occasion will not be just for monetary well being, but additionally psychological well being,” Bof stated. “I need to present the group with a joy-filled day.”
In case you go
Localtopia runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Rain date is Feb. 27. Free. Security measures embrace temperature checks, masks necessities, inspired social distancing and separate consuming and consuming. Pets should not allowed as a result of they complicate social distancing. 350 Second Ave. N. For info on parking, a map, the lineup and security tips, go to localtopia.keepsaintpetersburglocal.org.