by Katie Hendrick and Nancy Moreland | March 13, 2017

The Tide: Spring 2017

Road-trip-worthy events and things to do in Florida

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NORTH


Jason Isbell onstage at Word of South, a gathering of musicians, writers and other performers in Tallahassee; Photography by Bob Howard

Jason Isbell onstage at the 2016 Word of South, a gathering of musicians, writers and other performers in Tallahassee; Photography by Bob Howard

WORD OF SOUTH

TALLAHASSEE
APRIL 7–9

Literary meets lyrical in this celebration of books and music. Last year, nearly 15,000 converged on Cascades Park to watch authors and musicians from around the country and region collaborate in “one-of-a-kind performances you can’t see anywhere else,” says volunteer Sara Marchessault. Downtown Tallahassee bustles with eclectic performers, food trucks, craftsmen and booksellers. Festival favorites include talks by winners of the Florida Book Award and a repeat performance by The Currys. Seven stages for entertainment, a children’s story fort and hands-on activities captivate the multigenerational audience. A mostly free and family-friendly event, Word of South pays homage to that most Southern of talents: storytelling. wordofsouthfestival.com

The Crawfish Festival dishes up 16,000 pounds of Louisiana crawfish in a massive mudbug boil. Photography Fiesta of Five Flags

The Crawfish Festival dishes up 16,000 pounds of Louisiana crawfish in a massive mudbug boil. Photography Fiesta of Five Flags

CRAWFISH FESTIVAL

PENSACOLA
APRIL 28–30

Now in its 33rd season, this event dishes up 16,000 pounds of Louisiana crawfish in a massive mudbug boil and other culinary delights. Add a dash of Cajun music, Pensacola Bay Brewery beer and a crawfish eating contest and you’ve got the recipe for the Crawfish Festival—a rollicking crustacean celebration. Part of Fiesta of Five Flags, it’s held in Bartram Park overlooking Pensacola Bay. “This is one of the Gulf Coast’s largest festivals promoting Pensacola’s heritage,” says Festival Co-Chair Wes Hudgens. Kids love the NASCRAW crawfish races while grownups enjoy a fais do-do accompanied by live music. fiestaoffiveflags.org

Ricky Valido and his band opening the Suwannee River Jam. Photography by George Peavey

Ricky Valido and his band opening the Suwannee River Jam. Photography by George Peavey

SUWANNEE RIVER JAM

LIVE OAK
MAY 3–6

Two-step your way to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park for some folksy fun. The nearest thing to Nashville in North Florida, the Suwannee River Jam is a magnet for music lovers who like a little twang with their tunes. Previous headliners include Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood. If honky tonk heartbreak brings on the blues, the Daisy Dukes contest will lighten your mood. Golf carts are the transportation of choice in this 800-acre venue—so much so that the golf cart parade is a perennial favorite. Pitch a tent or roll up in an RV and enjoy the rural river setting with fellow happy campers. suwanneeriverjam.com

Forgotten Coast en Plein Air has grown to include 21 internationally recognized artists who produce over 300 paintings in 10 days; artist Jason Sacran shown here. Photography by Forgotten Coast en Plein Air.

Forgotten Coast en Plein Air has grown to include 21 internationally recognized artists who produce over 300 paintings in 10 days; artist Jason Sacran shown here. Photography by Forgotten Coast en Plein Air.

FORGOTTEN COAST EN PLEIN AIR

PORT ST. JOE
MAY 5–14

The phrase “en plein air” is French for “in the open air,” but this gathering has a decidedly Floridian flair. Launched in 2006 to capture disappearing Florida scenes, Forgotten Coast en Plein Air has grown to include 21 internationally recognized artists who produce over 300 paintings in 10 days. It’s a big draw for collectors and aspiring artists, who paint alongside their idols. “From an artist’s perspective, it has all the key elements of a successful paint-out. The area is rich with picturesque old Florida subjects,” says Charles Dickinson, a St. Augustine artist and Plein Air participant since its inception. pleinairfl.com

The Gullah Geechee Spring Tour covers northeast Florida, from the Atlantic coast to the rural interior. Photography by Gullah Geechee Tour

The Gullah Geechee Spring Tour covers northeast Florida, from the Atlantic coast to the rural interior. Photography by Gullah Geechee Tour

GULLAH GEECHEE SPRING TOUR

ELKTON
MARCH 18–24

Cyclists of all ages and fitness levels saddle up for Bike Florida’s epic rides. The Gullah Geechee Spring Tour covers northeast Florida, from the Atlantic coast to the rural interior. Daily excursions following a wagon wheel pattern highlight historic, cultural and natural sites. “We introduce people to things they ordinarily wouldn’t see,” says Executive Director Joy Hancock. Back at base camp, live music and a Gullah Geechee ring shout foster a “Bike Florida family” esprit de corps. Many cyclists return year after year. Feel-good bonus: The touring adventure raises funds for the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program. bikeflorida.org 


Central


WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE GIVING GRANTMAKERS NETWORK NATIONAL LEADERSHIP FORUM

ATLANTIC BEACH
MARCH 12–14

The Women’s Giving Alliance of Northeast Florida is hosting its 6th annual national conference, the Women’s Collective Giving GrantMakers Network National Leadership Forum, to celebrate women-powered financial giving to non profits. The in-person networking benefits will be primo, as will the event’s beachfront setting, One Ocean Resort & Spa. Conference co-chair Paula Liang says, “We’re excited about our speakers—Jackie Bezos, mother of Jeff of Amazon fame, is the CEO of their foundation, [and] she’ll talk about their work to get brain science to parents and caregivers of toddlers in an accessible way to ensure school readiness; also, Teresa Younger, the CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women; and Trisha Meili, author of I Am the Central Park Jogger.” wcgn-network.org

Hot air balloons ready for lift off at the annual Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo, featuring warbirds and light sport and homebuilt aircraft. Photography by Sun 'n Fun

Hot air balloons ready for lift off at the annual Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo, featuring warbirds and light sport and homebuilt aircraft. Photography by Sun ‘n Fun

SUN ‘N FUN INTERNATIONAL FLY-IN & EXPO

LAKELAND
APRIL 4–9

Solo pilots, military stunt teams and aviation exhibitors will converge in Polk County for a weeklong aeronautical extravaganza. Now in its 43rd year, Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In draws upwards of 200,000 spectators eager to see warbirds, light-sports, and homebuilt aircraft (and more) up close and personal. The airshow, considered one of the world’s best, presents top-notch acts, such as the French Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team and Manfred Radius, a Canada-based pilot legendary for his nighttime sailplane performances set to classical music. The event also includes forums, workshops and a mobile app to help attendees get oriented. sun-n-fun.org 

Expect to find signed works by literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner alongside classic children’s literature, pop-up books, antique maps, subversive tracts, whaling logs and pamphlets from Depression-era Florida. Photography by T. Allan Smith

Expect to find signed works by literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner alongside classic children’s literature, pop-up books, antique maps, subversive tracts, whaling logs and pamphlets from Depression-era Florida. Photography by T. Allan Smith

FLORIDA ANTIQUARIAN BOOK FAIR

PETERSBURG
APRIL 21–23

The Coliseum, a Jazz Age ballroom, transforms into a bibliophile’s dream for the 36th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Festival, when more than 100 booksellers from around the country arrive with “a dizzying variety of printed matter” that can range from 15th-century manuscripts to first editions of Harry Potter. Expect to find signed works by literary giants like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner alongside classic children’s literature, pop-up books, antique maps, subversive tracts, whaling logs and pamphlets from Depression-era Florida. “As sure as there are rare and pricy items, many sellers have bins with volumes marked at $5 each,” says organizer Allan Smith. floridabooksellers.com

BERN’S WINEFEST

TAMPA
APRIL 23–30

Tampa’s toniest restaurant group throws one splashy food and drink jubilee. The 20th anniversary of Bern’s Winefest spills over into 14 events, including tastings, seminars, a Caddyshack-themed cocktail party and a $1,200 five-course dinner, held throughout the company’s various properties: Bern’s Steakhouse, Epicurean and Haven. “It’s a hell of a party,” says Chris Sherman veteran attendee and co-author of Bern’s: Rare and Well Done. Oenophiles have access to bottles from about 150 wineries “and the good stuff from the cellar,” while foodies will be treated to “an endless parade of clever recipes,” he explains. One of this year’s special guests is renowned viniculturist Jean-Charles Boisset, owner of several estates in Napa, Sonoma and Burgundy. bernswinefest.com

Orlando Science Center, Science of Wine; Photography by Roberto Gonzalez

Orlando Science Center, Science of Wine; Photography by Roberto Gonzalez

SCIENCE OF WINE

ORLANDO
APRIL 29

Ever wonder why Argentine vino tastes so different from varietals produced in Italy? Or why chardonnay complements fish better than merlot? At the Orlando Science Center’s 7th annual Science of Wine, get schooled in the technical aspects of winemaking while sipping, noshing and supporting the museum. “Our mission is to inspire science learning for life, so that means piquing curiosity for all ages,” says marketing director Jeff Stanford on the fundraiser’s goal. Sample generous pours by Southern Glazer’s Wine, complemented by the culinary talents from Hawkers Asian Street Faire, Sobremesa Orlando, Sweet by Holly and more. osc.org

RARE FRUIT TREE SALE

PALMETTO
MAY 21

What do you get when you fill the Bradenton Area Convention Center with trees bearing mangos, loquats, figs, persimmons, bananas, avocados and starfruit? Answer: More than 3,000 visitors eager to turn their backyards into miniature versions of the Garden of Eden. The 29th annual Rare Fruit Tree Sale promises 5,000 specimens, representing roughly 125 varieties. “You’ll find almost every kind of sub tropical and Florida friendly fruiting plant,” says Diane Wallace, event co-chair and a board member of the Manatee Rare Fruit Council. Also available: 100 varieties of herbs, fruit jellies, spices, local honey, the club’s specially formulated “Fruitlizer” plant food and its cookbook, Delicious Treats Using Our Exotic Fruitsmrfc.org


SOUTH


The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park attracts the world’s greatest racehorses. , Scott Redinger-Libolt Redphoto

The Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park attracts the world’s greatest racehorses. Photography by Scott Redinger-Libolt Redphoto

FLORIDA DERBY

HALLANDALE BEACH
APRIL 1

For some heart-pounding action, hoof it to historic Gulfstream Park. Now in its 66th run, the Florida Derby boasts a million-dollar purse prize and an imposing roster that’s preparing for the Triple Crown. “The greatest horses of all time come through here,” says marketing director Michael Nyman. In fact, reigning champion Nyquist went on to win last year’s Kentucky Derby. The 1 1/8-mile race around a dirt track lasts less than two minutes, but half the fun is the jaunty atmosphere in the grandstand. Don’t forget your hat—the bigger the better! gulfstreampark.com

The Delray Affair art festival; Photography by VMA Studios

The Delray Affair art festival; Photography by VMA Studios

DELRAY AFFAIR

DELRAY BEACH
APRIL 7–9

Fine jewelry, ceramics, “bitti bots” (robots made of out objects like soup cans, spark plugs and measuring cups), even painted toilet seats—there’s no telling what you might spot at this colossal display of creativity. Stretching across 12 city blocks, the Delray Affair ranks as the largest arts and crafts festival in the Southeast, and draws more than 110,000 attendees annually. Live music and a slew of vendors peddling snacks ranging from cronuts to lobster paella keep crowds buoyant. To mark the festival’s 55th anniversary, its lineup will include a history and heritage exhibit, special culinary attractions and a student recycled art show. delrayaffair.com

Key West Paddle Classic takes athletes on a journey around the island. Photography by Jessica M. Robb

Key West Paddle Classic takes athletes on a journey around the island. Photography by Jessica M. Robb

KEY WEST PADDLE CLASSIC

KEY WEST
APRIL 27–30

Twenty years ago, a dozen friends decided to circumnavigate America’s southernmost city by kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard, starting a tradition that snowballed into a contest that’s internationally esteemed. “We’re one of only 28 races where paddlers can earn points toward a world ranking,” says Sue Cooper, organizer of the Key West Paddle Classic. Among the frequent entrants: SUP superstars Larry Cain, April Zilg and Seychelle Hattingh. The competition consists of a 12-mile endurance battle, a 4-mile sprint and a three-person relay, and is open to all sorts of vessels, including surf skis and inflatable rafts. “If you can paddle it, you can race it,” Cooper says. “We pride ourselves on inclusivity.” lazydog.com

The Stuart Sailfish Regatta highlights the nimbleness of high-performance vessels such as hydroplanes, powerboats and jersey skiffs. Photography by Eric Paul Wickstrom

The Stuart Sailfish Regatta highlights the nimbleness of high-performance vessels such as hydroplanes, powerboats and jersey skiffs. Photography by Eric Paul Wickstrom

STUART SAILFISH REGATTA

STUART
MAY 20–21

The Stuart Causeway Bridge shuts down, making way for thousands of spectators to line up lawn chairs for a bird’s-eye view of the world’s top racers hurtling past at speeds up to 170 miles per hour. A charity event that benefits the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast and the U.S. Sailing Center of Martin County, the Stuart Sailfish Regatta highlights the nimbleness of high-performance vessels such as hydroplanes, powerboats and jersey skiffs. The weekend kicks off with a VIP party downtown that features live music, cocktails, food and the chance to mingle with competitors. stuartsailfishregatta.com 

Venus Williams, Marc Murphy, Andi Dorfman at Taste of Tennis Cooking Demo; Photography by Taste of Tennis

Venus Williams, Marc Murphy, Andi Dorfman at Taste of Tennis Cooking Demo; Photography by Taste of Tennis

TASTE OF TENNIS

MIAMI
MARCH 20

The first day of the Miami Open wraps up with Taste of Tennis, a ritzy after-party at the W Miami Brickell. Sample cuisine from some of the city’s most popular restaurants, such as Nobu, Malibu Farms, Lure Fishbar and Sushisamba, while rubbing shoulders with the sport’s top players and other celebrities. Venus and Serena Williams, Bob and Mike Bryan, Rafael Nadal, Caroline Wozniacki and Genie Bouchard have all walked the famed green carpet. The star-studded soiree also includes a DJ and “a surprise interactive experience,” says Lisa Marie Vargas, one of the event’s coordinators. (Last year, a ping pong table encouraged some friendly competition.) tasteoftennis.com