Siesta organization wants to ‘freshen up’ Fiesta

Siesta Village merchants are discussing how they can improve future Siesta Fiestas. Photo by Norman Schimmel

Already looking ahead to the 35th Annual Siesta Fiesta in 2013, the president of the Siesta Key Village Association announced during his organization’s May 1 meeting that the SKVA board and Events Committee are working on freshening up the fine arts show.

“We feel like it needs a little more ‘pow ‘ to the punch,” Russell Matthes said.

Part of the problem, Matthes said, is that Howard Alan Events and American Craft Endeavors, the company that produces Siesta Fiesta, holds a number of similar events throughout the year in the county, including shows in Venice and downtown Sarasota, as well as on St. Armands Circle.

“Back in the day,” Matthes continued, when Siesta Fiesta began, “there were very few of these events. Very few communities closed down their streets to provide a venue. … I think people have seen (Siesta Village’s) success and want to copy it.”

(Part of Ocean Boulevard traditionally has been closed to make room for Siesta Fiesta vendors.)

Matthes added, “We want to dress (Fiesta) up a little.”

Perhaps the event could feature more entertainment or more food choices, he said.

Noting that he was working with a Howard Alan representative on the 2013 Fiesta agreement, Matthes said, “I’m not sure how much we’ll get accomplished for next year.” Still, he said, “it’s something everyone should be thinking about.”

Matthes said he would keep all the SKVA members posted on discussions among the board and Events Committee members.

In a related matter, Matthes and Deputy Matt Binkley of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office both pointed to parking issues during the recent Siesta Fiesta, which was held April 14-15.

A number of vendors who had come for the event parked their vehicles, including motor homes, in spaces that should have been available to the general public, both Matthes and Binkley said.

Matthes pointed out that that issue also would be addressed in the agreement for the 2013 Siesta Fiesta.

“There’s some debate as to whether we should be writing parking tickets during (Fiesta),” Binkley said.

Sgt. Scott Osborne, leader of the Sheriff’s Office’s Community Policing Center in Siesta Village, had told the deputies not to write tickets, Binkley said, unless a complaint or situation was of such a serious nature as to warrant the action.

“Overall,” Binkley said, “we tried to do what we could to help the event and make it be a positive experience for newcomers or for people (from) outside the area” coming to Siesta Key.

Binkley pointed out that deputies heard a lot of complaints about motor homes parked in the municipal lot, between Avenida Madera and Avenida de Mayo. “It’s not marked effectively,” Binkley said of that lot. “I think the sand and the grit has worn off all the markings.”

That situation made it very hard to enforce parking regulations, he said, though deputies did write a couple of citations.

Binkley said he had contacted John Lally, the county’s code enforcement officer for Siesta Key, about getting the parking lot re-striped, but Lally had told him the county would not be doing such a project right away.

Lally was out of the office this week because of a personal matter, so The Sarasota News Leader was unable to reach him to provide more details.

Beach Accesses 4 and 5 also were full of vehicles belonging to Fiesta vendors, Binkley said. “There was just nowhere for any visitors to park.”

Binkley added that he did speak with one person who asked if it was legal to charge for parking in the empty lot at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Treasure Boat Way; the man wanted to charge $20 per vehicle.

That was legal, Binkley said, as long as the owner of the property had given the person permission to undertake the initiative. “Obviously,” Binkley added, “you can’t solicit”; that is against the law.

Village Café co-owner Kay Kouvatsos suggested the SKVA look into providing a shuttle service from Siesta Public Beach in the future, so people would not have to worry about finding parking spaces near Siesta Village.

Finally, Binkley said he also heard numerous complaints from food vendors trying to reach businesses in Siesta Village, because someone had put up the barricades on Ocean Boulevard before he arrived at 5:30 a.m. on April 14.

County workers typically deliver the barricades, he said, and it was to have been his job to put them in place.

No one offered any information during the SKVA meeting about who had put up the barricades so early, as Fiesta did not start until 10 a.m. each of the two days it was held.