ST. PETERSBURG — It's back.
The Taste of Pinellas, two days of scrumptious food and rocking music, has returned after a one-year hiatus. This weekend, Pat Benatar, Loverboy and The Blues Brothers will share the spotlight with the best bites of Pinellas County.
“For more than 25 years, it has changed and grown,” says Scott Schecter, president of Bill Edwards Presents Inc., the company organizing the two-day festival. “But we have re-invented the event. It's moved to a perfect location that will give a great backdrop behind the stage, and while it might be smaller, we're really excited to see how this year goes.”
With sagging attendance and soaring costs, organizers said they needed time to regroup and retool the festival which is moving from Vinoy Park to Albert Whitted Park in downtown St. Petersburg.
“We're very excited to have it back, not only because of how it's changed, but, of course, because it's so well connected to All Children's Hospital,” says Sylvia Ameen, All Children's vice president. All of the proceeds from the event go to the children's hospital to expand its outreach program, research area and pediatrics.
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With Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Loverboy, KC and the Sunshine Band, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers and The Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi scheduled to perform, Taste boasts a classic radio station lineup.
“Not that there's anything wrong with that,” Schecter says with a laugh. “I love that music, and I think fans of that will love that music. … I'm really looking forward to seeing the real Blues Brothers.”
Indeed, Belushi and Aykroyd donning the black suits, fedoras and Ray-Bans has people buzzing, but Belushi said he's looking forward to the event, too.
“(The food tents) may be my first stop when I get there,” says Belushi, the 59-year-old “Saturday Night Live” alum. “As a Chicago Bear fan, there's two things you want in life: to beat the Green Bay Packers and to eat everything that's offered.”
“We used to try to blend (the music) across the board, and maybe this event appeals to a little more of an older crowd, but we see lot of kids and all ages there,” Schecter says. “What I like about this year is this era of music has a hipness to it, so some are discovering it now, but there's also people, and it's the music they grew up with.
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Of course, the other big draw this weekend will be the food.
Taste of Pinellas will feature more than 20 local restaurants and vendors serving up homegrown flavors.
Participating restaurants include: Madfish, Snappers Sea Grill, 1200 Chophouse, The Hangar, Parkshore Grill, Pipo's Cafe, Screwie Louie's Bar and Grille, Stefano's Gelato, Island Flavors and Tings and more.
“The food, music and fun are back, and I think that people are really going to embrace the return and the small changes,” says Ameen.
Schecter agrees. “All the elements that made the event one of the most anticipated local events are back,” he says. “Restaurants, food, music, family and friends and fun. ... Those who really missed it last year are going to be pleased.”
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.