Siesta Fiesta’s future might be called a ‘work in progress’

Siesta Key Village Association members debate continuing the event and, if they do, whether to go back to closing part of Ocean Boulevard for it

Howard Alan used this poster to advertise the 2016 Siesta Fiesta. Image from the firm's website
Howard Alan used this poster to advertise the 2016 Siesta Fiesta. Image from the firm’s website

After years of complaints about restaurants suffering at night during Siesta Fiesta because of the closure of a segment of Ocean Boulevard to traffic, the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) — the event’s sponsor — agreed to limit the crafts fair to Siesta Village sidewalks. And that drew complaints from the crowds, SKVA members reported at their monthly meeting this week.

Siesta Fiesta was held April 9-10.

“I think we need some feedback from people,” SKVA Treasurer Roz Hyman said at the outset of the May 3 discussion. She had had a call from Howard Alan Events & American Craft Endeavors, which produces the event for the SKVA, she added. The question, she told the 16 people present, is “Do we want to continue Siesta Fiesta?” If so, Hyman said, should Ocean Boulevard remain open or should it be closed in the future, as it was in past years. “This is something that we have to discuss.”

Howard Alan staff members need to know whether to continue to put Siesta Fiesta on their schedule, Hyman added, or whether to “take us off completely.”

One factor that has caused problems in more recent years, SKVA board member Russell Matthes explained, is that the Howard Alan calendar stays so full, “it’s hard to find a consistent week” to hold Siesta Fiesta. Traditionally, SKVA members pointed out, it was held the second weekend after Easter, unless Easter was very early in the spring.

Matthes also noted that that event and the February craft fair are the two primary sources of income for the SKVA. Siesta Fiesta began close to 40 years ago, he added.

Matthes heard from some people that “they couldn’t maneuver to booths” this year, he said, because of the crowds along the sidewalks. Moreover, complaints were aired about the lack of the larger vendors who used to occupy spaces in the middle of Ocean Boulevard, he noted.

On the other side of the issue, he continued, restaurant owners and managers have told him in the past, “‘You’re ruining our business on that weekend’” by having Ocean Boulevard closed through a big portion of the Village. “We’ve always gotten [those comments],” he said of the dining establishments. At 5 p.m., with the vendors having shut down for the day and the street still closed, “We’re kind of dead in the water,” Matthes added of the affected restaurants.

Matthes is one of the owners of the Daiquiri Deck.

“We were really happy” with the street remaining open this year, Stephanie Brown, general manager of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, reported. Having Ocean Boulevard clear of vendors “helped us out a lot,” she added.

Howard Alan's website featured these samples of artists for the 2016 Siesta Fiesta. Image from the firm's website
Howard Alan’s website featured these samples of artists for the 2016 Siesta Fiesta. Image from the firm’s website

However, Peter van Roekens, who represents the Terrace East condominium complex at the SKVA meetings, told the group, “We had a lot of feedback when we were selling [Siesta Fiesta] T-shirts [for the SKVA].” People complained that the crowd size hampering their ability to walk among the vendors, he pointed out. “They were not really happy.”

Michael Shay, president of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), reported that he heard from business owners who would prefer the event to be held later in the year, at the very end of April or early May, after season. However, he conceded that the scheduling is left to Howard Alan.

Artists who participate in Siesta Fiesta head up north for other events by last spring, Kay Kouvatsos, co-owner of Village Café, replied. “We push [Siesta Fiesta] back as far as we can.”

Ocean Boulevard runs through Siesta Village. File photo
Ocean Boulevard runs through Siesta Village. File photo

“I would like to see the events continue,” Kouvatsos said of both the February fair and Siesta Fiesta. “I think the crafts shows themselves bring people here. I think they’re a good thing to bring recognition to the Key.” And she enjoys having the big vendors in the middle of Ocean Boulevard, she continued, though she acknowledged that Village Café is not open at night. (It serves breakfast and lunch.)

Another concern, Matthes pointed out, is “we always have something going on [at the same time],” such as an art fair held on Siesta Fiesta weekend one of the other barrier islands this year. Those events draw people who might otherwise have come to Siesta, he has said in the past.

As for the road closure issue: Are there other Village streets that could accommodate Siesta Fiesta, Matthes asked.

Vice President Mark Smith suggested Avenida Madera or Avenida Messina might be alternatives. But Hyman pointed out that representatives of restaurants on those streets would be likely to complain.

The Circle K is at the northern end of Siesta Village. Image from Google Maps
The Circle K is at the northern end of Siesta Village. Image from Google Maps

Parking is available in front of dining establishments on those streets, Matthes noted.

Then Kouvatsos suggested the possibility of using the vicinity of the Circle K convenience store, where no restaurants are located and people would have more room to maneuver.

“It comes down to getting everybody’s input today,” Matthes explained, and then the SKVA board members would decide how to proceed and let Howard Alan representatives know.

Matthes added that he felt the key issue is whether to close Ocean Boulevard for future Siesta Fiestas. “Closing the street’s a bear.”