Localtopia asks you to keep your dollars Local (topia)

The beloved Williams Park event asks for help offsetting this year's loss.

click to enlarge It totally rained on Localtopia's parade this year, and their bottom line felt the most water damage. - Pilot Moon Films
Pilot Moon Films
It totally rained on Localtopia's parade this year, and their bottom line felt the most water damage.

In St. Petersburg, just because it rains doesn't mean you shouldn't drink.

Especially at Localtopia, where organizers counted on beer and Keep Saint Petersburg Local merchandise sales to defray the $50,000 bill for the beloved annual event.

If you recall, although Mayor Rick Kriseman may insist "the sun shines here," we do, on occasion, get some rain. One such day was February 6, which also happened to be the day of Localtopia. Now the parent organization, Keep Saint Petersburg Local, is feeling the clouds. According to Localtopia's GoFundMe page, "we were counting on shine in the 'Sunshine City' to aid us in covering the costs associated with organizing such a massive festival."

The fundraising page has a goal of $20,000.

"The event costs over $50,000 to put on, it's a massive festival, because we walk our talk. We can't really go out there and secure sponsorship for the full cost of the festival, because there are not many indie businesses out there who can donate or sponsor to the tune of 50 grand," Keep Saint Petersburg Local founder and executive director Olga Bof told CL. "We were hoping to double what we had last year, and we didn't get to what we got to last year."

That's where the booze and merchandise comes into play.

Lower-than-expected turnout — and rain that didn't inspire people to crack a cold beer — meant KSPL didn't bring in enough to cover their expenses. Although they don't owe the city money, Bof says the organization still has outstanding Localtopia-related bills. 

"I don't want to be seen as a bad debt for folks. We don't want to owe money to anybody," Bof says. 

With most festivals, sponsorship and vendor fees cover the cost of permitting, security, sanitation, music, insurance and other festival costs. Bof says Keep Saint Petersburg Local charges lower fees for Localtopia than many other major festivals, in keeping with their mission of supporting local businesses. This year, a booth at Localtopia cost $200 for a retail spot, $275 for a food spot, and some of the 200 vendors didn't pay for a spot. Nonprofits, for example, either get free space or pay what they can.

"When you look at comparable events, they charge a heck of a lot more [for vendor space]," Bof says. 

This Saturday's Get Rescued in Gulfport allows legitimate rescues to attend free (and, in fact, donates the vendor fees to those rescues); other vendors pay between $125 and $175, with corporate booths paying $550 and up. At the John's Pass Seafood Festival, vendors pay between $350 to $400, charities/nonprofits (501c3) pay $350 and corporate sponsors pay $1500 and up. The upcoming Earth Day celebration in Williams Park charges nonprofits $25, with all other vendors paying between $50 and $150. (Full disclosure: CL is a media sponsor for Earth Day, as we were for Localtopia.) LocalShops1, another shop local advocacy group, charged between $65 and $250 for Shopapalooza in Straub Park this past year (vendors paid an extra $65 or $100 for a second day, with nonprofits paying the lower of the two rates.)

Localtopia is free to attend; Bof says she hopes to keep it free in coming years. 

KSPL is also looking to change things to keep Localtopia from running into trouble in the future — for example, this year they had two music stages and a $7,000 music bill. Next year, they hope to have a lower entertainment budget.

Although financially Localtopia didn't do well, Bof calls the "mission side" a success. 

"We don't know of any other event that would have had that many people come out to that in that weather. The vendors we had still did well. We know the community loves this event." 

Donations to Keep Saint Petersburg Local are not tax deductible. To donate, visit the Localtopia GoFundMe page.

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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