If you lived in Sarasota, you’d celebrate too! Maybe that’s why this fun central Florida city is home to so many annual special events and festivals. Indeed, the people of the greater Sarasota area often take time out from their busy schedules to party together and honor the best things in life – like food, music, and cinema. Holidays also bring the community together as do celebrations of particular seasons. Some of these events have been going on for several decades while others are just getting their start. Here’s a list of some of the best.
Sarasota County Fair – This 10-day festival held at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds on Ringling Boulevard is a favorite with all ages. Very much your typical county fair, guests at this event will enjoy myriad animal and agricultural exhibits, musical entertainment, pie-eating contests, circus acts, amusement rides, and much more. Admission fee is low so the whole family can enjoy a day at the fair for an affordable price.
Taste of the Suncoast – During this tasty event, dozens of Sarasota restaurants donate their food to help raise money for local food banks and fight hunger in their own community. Held at Robarts Arena, the 3-hour event also includes entertainment. Ticket prices are steep (around $50) but the food is terrific.
Sarasota Comedy Festival – Lasting about six days, this annual comedy fest benefits the local Child Protection Center. Top name comedians come to Sarasota to entertain guests during each night of the event. There’s also a comedy luncheon and workshops for budding comedians.
Sarasota Jazz Festival – This week-long event features all sorts of jazz music including not just the traditional fare but also ragtime, blues, swing, and even big band music of the 1940s. Food is plentiful as well.
Florida Winefest and Auction – A four-day event that attracts food and wine aficionados, the Florida Winefest and Auction raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for local charities. Participants can enjoy tastings, special wine pairing dinners, the Wine Dinner Dance with entertainment, and the final gala event – a charity wine auction at Sarasota’s Ritz Carlton.
Giving Hunger the Blues – This annual food and music event, inaugurated in 1996, is held in Sarasota’s Southside Village neighborhood in early April or late March. Benefiting the All Faiths Food Bank and other local charities, the one day events includes the opportunity to taste the cuisine of some of Sarasota’s best restaurants. There’s also kids games, music, and martial arts and dance demos by local students.
Florida International Air Show – A short drive away in Punta Gorda at the Charlotte County Airport, here you’ll find a display of vintage and modern aircraft and demonstrations by groups like The Blue Angels.
Venice Sharks Tooth Festival – Held on the pier at Venice Beach, “The Sharks Tooth Capital of the World”, this well-attended one-day festival is a spring favorite, featuring displays of sharks teeth and other fossils as well as plenty of food and entertainment.
Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix – This power boat event usually takes place around the 4th of July and has raised millions for the local Child Development Center, including funds for a Special Olympics training facility in Venice, FL. Guests can enjoy a series of boat racing events, a golf tournament, parades, and fishing tournaments during this 12-day event.
A Taste of Sarasota – Sponsored by the Florida Restaurant Association, this popular one-day event – held in September or October – sees top area chefs compete for a number of honors. There’s also plenty of food for spectators to taste, ice carving competitions, live music, arts and crafts, kids games, and more.
Annual Stone Crab Seafood and Wine Festival – Held on Longboat Key at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort, this 3-day fest marks the beginning of stone crab season and includes renowned guest chefs who prepare a variety of dishes featuring local stone crabs. Guests can also sample wines from around the world.
Sarasota Blues Festival – Held at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, this extravaganza celebrates a uniquely American form of music. Nationally-recognized as one of the best events of its kind, top-name blues artists head to the area for a day full of great sounds. Plenty of food, too.
Cine World Film Festival – Sponsored by the Sarasota Film Society, this fun festival brings the best films of the Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals to the people of central Florida.
Sarasota Reading Festival – Thousands flock to downtown Sarasota for this educational festival that features lectures, seminars, book-signings and children's activities. Suitable and enjoyable for all ages.
The Venice Holiday Parade – Usually held right after Thanksgiving on the last weekend in November, this Christmas parade kicks off the season in a grand manner, making its way through downtown Venice and featuring tons of floats and marching bands.
Sarasota Downtown Holiday Parade – Thousands gather in downtown Sarasota to celebrate Christmas Florida-style with plenty of ornately-decorated floats and local and regional marching bands. Look for Santa at the end!
Sarasota Christmas Boat Parade – Guests enjoy the amazing efforts put forth during this popular event, which includes a competition of decorated power and sailboats, with prizes given in several classes. Venice Beach holds a similar event in December as well.