Successful Hibiscus Festival draws record numbers

VERO BEACH — By all accounts from vendors, festival goers and the volunteers who donated countless hours toward its success, the Hibiscus Festival was the best and largest in its history.

The day began at 7 a.m. with a 5K run from the airport and from that point on, there was non-stop action.  The weather cooperated, the crowds came out in full force, and the Festival Marketplace had a record number of vendors; all in all, a terrific day.

“We had 131 vendors and from what I’m hearing, almost everyone made money,” said Marketplace chair Susan Viviano toward the end of the day.  “There must have been 20,000 people; it was packed.”

According to Maria Kovachev, Executive Director of Main Street Vero Beach, booth spaces had been sold out two-weeks prior to the event.  There were so many who wanted to participate, they situated the spill-over booths in the Historical Society’s Train Depot parking lot.

As the Festival continues to expand and evolve, organizers have been forced to reconfigure its layout, and this year swapped the locations of the Juried Fine Arts Show and the Children’s Activities area.  It was the perfect change in venues for the two groups, allowing barefoot children to romp on the expansive lawn outside the Heritage center, while providing a wide, flat surface for the artists’ tents, set up on the street alongside the Courthouse Executive Center.

Thirty-three artists participated and seemed to appreciate the change.  “I’ve had nothing but positive comments,” said Lee Orre, who chaired both the Art Show and Antique Car exhibit.

Fourteen models representing various local charities participated in the Hibiscus Festival Volunteer Fashion Show, modeling the latest fashions by Dillard’s and recognizing April as Volunteer Month.

“It was great,” said Darlene Forage, Executive Director of Plumbago Volunteer Services and the event’s coordinator.  “We had a really diverse group of models this year and they looked fabulous.”

A creative Shopping Cart Parade of decorative carts was a new addition this year, with items from the canned food drive being donated to the Harvest Food and Outreach Center.  Other activities included the annual Don Smith Memorial Pancake Breakfast, magicians and street entertainers, a Hale Groves Farmers Market, Shuffleboard Club exhibitions, and exhibits by the Indian River County Historical Society.

Throughout the entire day, 12 live musical acts provided constant entertainment at various locations scattered around the Festival and the annual Rotary Club of Vero Beach Salute to Youth showcased talented local performers.

The party continued into the evening with the 60’s Festival Street Party.  “We made sure there was more of a dance space this year,” said Georgia Irish who chaired the Street Party.  “We also added more lighting to the stage and Bob Votruba brought in his One Million Acts of Kindness bus for us.  With all its positive messages, it’s a nice uplifting addition.”

The always amazing sounds of Bobby and the Blisters drew crowds down to the Street Party area, one block south of the daytime Festival.  Later, the crowd got into the groove as the Beatles Remembered Band took them on a trip back in time.  They played several sets, also playing music from the Beach Boys (complete with beach balls batted around by the audience) and other popular bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  People were having such a good time, that they ended up played for another half-hour longer than scheduled, not closing out their final set until about 9 p.m.

Funds raised at the annual Festival help in the preservation and growth of the historic downtown area through the work being done by Main Street Vero Beach and Vero Heritage Inc. {igallery 181}

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