There’s more to Bradenton than people realize


Kaitlyn Schafer, Reviews, Features. and Editorials editor

For many people throughout Bradenton, the only activities they may think of to do for fun would be to go to the beach or spend most of their time on the island but many of the residents and visitors forget that Anna Maria is not the only source of excitement in town. Bradenton’s downtown is a buzzing area that is always full of activity that people of all ages can enjoy and appreciate. This is all thanks to Realize Bradenton, a nonprofit organization that dedicates its time and services to the downtown area in hopes of uniting the community through music, art, good food and fun.

“Realize Bradenton is a nonprofit organization that promotes redevelopment and economic growth in downtown Bradenton by transforming places, engaging people, and realizing possibilities. As a community-benefit organization, we work with others to continually strengthen the social, cultural and physical assets in the Bradenton area through public engagement, outreach, and capacity-building, special events and event support and strategic marketing and communication,” stated Joanna Bailey, the support specialist for Realize Bradenton.

One of Realize Bradenton’s main goals is to help increase the amount of tourism to boost Florida’s economy. Their efforts to make the city a more vibrant and prosperous area for residents, visitors and businesses have helped definitely helped in that regard. According to their website and the American for the Arts economic impact calculator, their events attract 100,000 people to downtown, generating $2,785,000 in economic impact each year. Some of their most impactful events that help with this achievement are the Riverwalk, Bradenton Blues Festival, Farmer’s Market and others.

“Realize Bradenton believes that people are the greatest asset. We creatively engage a diversity of people to work together on positive change in the community. We are for the community, by the community,” said Bailey.

Amp It Up: The mosaic amphitheater on Bradenton’s Riverwalk is still thriving. An annual event called “Music in the Park” took place in March and will come back in 2020. “It was wild. I brought my friends and my dog with me and we all had the best time,” stated senior Zachary Scott.

The Riverwalk includes a walk area along the Manatee River where visitors can admire aquatic life, relax or exercise. The area also features a skate park that was designed by Team Pain Skate Parks. Riverwalk caters to everyone in the family with their child-friendly splash park and playground, amphitheater, volleyball nets and lounging areas.

Realize Bradenton has also released a relatively new interactive website called “Walk” that directs people to areas around Bradenton noted for their history, art, food, shops and more. It is essentially a GPS that is based on interesting places around Bradenton that can take visitors on voiced and walking tours. “Walk” can take people to areas such as downtown Bradenton, Old Main Street and Village of the Arts. Within these areas, “Walk” can guide people to local eateries, public art, or just unique pieces. To watch an informational video on how to use “Walk,” click here.

The Bradenton Blues Festival is an event that Realize Bradenton and BMO Harris Bank puts forth every year, soon to be held on Dec. 6 and 7. The blues festival always features old-school jazzy beats and upbeat rhythms that can appeal to younger generations. The festival also provides food from various different vendors and also recognizes local artists. The lineup this year includes the harmonica master Kenny Neal, the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Toronzo Cannon, Biscuit Miller & the Mix and so many more. Proceeds from the Bradenton Blues Festival support Realize Bradenton’s youth, art and music programs, including the “Blues in the Schools” program.

Bradenton’s Farmers Market gives local farmers and other vendors the opportunity to sell their fresh vegetables and fruits. The market takes place every Saturday from Oct. through May from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Old Main Street. The market also features music, family activities and demonstrations by local chefs and artisans.

With over 75+ events, Realize Bradenton seems to always be creating events to make Bradenton the very best place to be. To discover more events, go to their calendar here.