Shopapalooza Festival Comes to Vinoy Park Thanksgiving Weekend
‘Tis the season to shop – and support local business! More than 350 local businesses will take over Vinoy Park on Thanksgiving weekend for Shopapalooza Festival 2023. According to LocalShops1 founder Ester Venouziou, the beloved holiday extravaganza is expected to be one of the largest Small Business Weekend events in the nation.
Co-sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg, Shopapalooza is a production of LocalShops1, recognized as Tampa Bay’s most active voice for small businesses. “We foster collaborations and organize events to connect businesses with businesses, as well as businesses with shoppers,” Venouziou explains. “Our signature event is Shopapalooza, the most popular holiday festival in downtown St. Petersburg.”
As the founder of LocalShops1, hundreds of St. Pete residents and shop owners think of Venouziou as their community hero – and for good reason. She has been a tireless champion of local and small business in the Bay Area since 2008, when LocalShops1 grew out of a list she kept to help her parents find local businesses when they visited.
“Shopping local is more critical than ever this year as small businesses are facing economic challenges with staffing shortages and higher cost of goods due to inflation, while still recovering from the pandemic’s impacts,” she says.
Just in time for the holidays, LocalShops1’s shopping/community event returns bigger than ever, this time featuring small businesses from artists to food trucks and nonprofits. Special sections and activities include shopping spree giveaways, holiday-themed vendor decor, beer and wine stations, food halls, live music, aerial performances, the Peace Flag Project, White Lounge seating, and other interactive activities for kids and adults.
The main stage will feature live entertainment throughout the weekend, and pop-up photo-ops will be scattered throughout the park. Santa will make an appearance both days and on Sunday, there’s a Santa rampage.
Says Venouziou, “We want to make it fun and easy for people to do their holiday shopping with local small businesses. And we want people to discover new businesses and reconnect with longtime favorites – and help drive traffic back to them year-round.”
In addition to supporting local business, Shopapalooza’s nonprofit beneficiaries this year include Jump for Kids and St. Pete Youth Farm.
Worried about parking? Take the free trolley to and from Shopapalooza throughout the weekend from Sundial parking garage.
This year’s Shopapalooza Festival is a pet- and kid-friendly event with a spectacular children’s zone, sponsored by Imagine Orthodontic Studio and organized by Coastal Dreams Events LLC. Fun for all ages, the zone offers a meet-and-greet with princesses, photo opps with Santa, lawn games, and more.
What’s the vibe like on the biggest shopping weekend of the year? “It’s not about the hard sell,” says Venouziou. “People are there because they’re interested in shopping local. Talk and listen to the vendors and ask them about their passions. Many vendors will offer gift bags or boxes if they can. Many people are buying gifts and will appreciate the extra touch.”
In addition to the hundreds of hours of work put into making Shopapalooza a reality, Venouziou does a masterful job marketing this event – just ask any of the 300 particpants.
“This will be our third year participating in the festival,” says business owner Maria Aller. Her company, Shapeshifter Fish and Friends, offers a variety of fun, colorful graphics on sun protective wear for the whole family. “Shopapalooza is a great chance for us who do not have a storefront to meet customers.”
Another longtime Shopapalooza vendor, Gopali Imports owner Alex Gopali, has been in business for nine years on Central in the Crislip Arcade. Gopali is originally from Napal and offers sound healing services every Saturday and Sunday at 9 am and has hundreds of handmade products from the Himalayas at his store. “We can meet so many more people during Shopapalooza and introduce them to our store,” he says. “It’s best for local shopping and holiday shoppers.”