Vero Beach’s Hibiscus Fest draws a crowd searching for fun

VERO BEACH – You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to be able to get Bev Paris’ attention on Hibiscus Festival morning.  Not only that, but you must have the stamina to keep up with her as she darts from task to task, solving problems and making decisions like King Solomon.

The hard working dynamo darted from the kitchen of the Heritage Center to take pictures of the winners of the early morning 5k race that kicked off the annual Hibiscus Festival, a conglomeration of creative civics and commercialism that is a celebration of the history and future of Vero’s downtown neighborhood.

“We have more than 200 amazing volunteers who make this day happen for us,” Paris said, in between phone calls and technical issues.  “We could not do it without them.”

In the 1950s, the festival lasted for weeks and celebrated our city’s native flower with luncheons, fashion shows, concerts, teas, fashion shows, and the crowning of Miss Hibiscus.  Elizabeth Graves Bass, Miss Hibiscus 1953, is the current pageant chairwoman.

The festivities Saturday morning began with a 5k run, followed by a pancake breakfast at the Heritage Center,

By noon, the streets downtown swelled with more than 15,000 people who came to enjoy a typical hot, sunny Florida day, as well as barbecue, gyros, pizza, cold beer, and shaved ice.  Several musical performers, including The Coffee Beans, Ben Prestage, and Hair Peace played throughout the day at different venues downtown.

The festivities weren’t strictly frivolous in nature.  Funds and awareness were raised for two non-profit organizations, Main Street Vero Beach, and Vero Heritage.  The shopping cart parade gave local merchants and organizations a chance to show their creative and philanthropic sides.  Shopping carts were decorated by each organization and filled with non-perishable food items, which were donated to local food pantries.   There were events throughout the day for everyone to enjoy, including a doggie parade, an antique car show, a teen karaoke contest, and a chance to experience what downtown Vero Beach has to offer.

Tea and Chi served a special iced tea blend for the day, a fruity, refreshing blend of hibiscus flowers and other special ingredients.  Flamevine Gallery, a ceramics gallery that is a recent addition to the fertile crescent of galleries in the downtown area made up of amazingly artistic women, had a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.  Bodega Blue was buzzing with revelers in need of cool refreshment.

The party was in full swing by late afternoon, when the Solid Gold Band took to the stage set up in the middle of 14th Avenue and 20th Street.  Theater Plaza was accessible only by passing through metal fencing and paying a $2.00 fee.  A VIP area was set up in front of the 14th Avenue Steakhouse, complete with white sectional sofas, where tired VIPs could relax with a cool drink, to enjoy the parade of people going by, as the evening street party got into full swing.

Main Street Vero Beach President Peter Jones took time from emptying trash to reflect on the day.  “What a day!  We are thrilled with the turnout. It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said smiling, as the tropical sun set over the most successful Hibiscus Festival ever.

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