By DEBBIE FLESSNER
Last year at this time, the Venice Newcomers Club, Newcomers of Venice Alumni and Venice MainStreet were holding their very first Celebrate Downtown Venice Day and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Much of downtown was under construction, as the Downtown Beautification Project continued and red tide proliferation had made the coastal air unbreathable for many. To top it off, it was raining for most of the day.
But as the groups prepare to hold the second installation of the annual event on Aug. 10, Venice Newcomers Club 1st Vice-President Donald DiPinto says that he is expecting much larger crowds than last year.
“It’s such a good opportunity for downtown businesses, especially with the grand opening of the new beautification project,” he said. “This is something that is great fun for both people who are vacationing here and those who live here year-round.”
The free 45-minute trolley tours of historic Venice Island kick off at noon. Harry Klinkhamer, Manager of Historical Resources for the City of Venice, will share his wealth of knowledge about the history of the town. The trolley stop will be near the Centennial Park kiosk, and the last tour leaves the stop at 3 p.m.
DiPinto said the Venice Newcomers Club members will be at the kiosk beginning at 11 a.m. to hand out information about the structures visitors will be see on the trolley tour.
“There are just so many historic sites to see Downtown,” he said. “This year, people will be able to pick up timed trolley tickets at the kiosk and we’ll be giving out different colors for the different times, to eliminate any confusion.”
From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., children can have their faces painted by a professional artist, and there will be numerous vendors on display in the park.
Bicycles International will be hosting two bike tours, one at 12:30 p.m. and the other at 4 p.m. Riders can join the group at the Centennial Park Gazebo, and then go on a leisurely ride to and from the Jetties. Bring your own bike, if you wish, or rent one for free from Bicycles International. They’re also providing a free “Fix a Flat” workshop at the Gazebo at 1:30 p.m., in which experts will instruct riders how to properly fix a flat tire.
DiPinto said that downtown shoppers will also have the chance to get into a celebratory mood by visiting participating businesses.
“Both Café 124 and Upper Crust Café and Bakery will be holding high teas, the first at 2 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m.,” he said.
“Some of the businesses will also be rolling back their happy hour times. For instance, Bonnell’s Boutique & Winery will have free wine tastings all day, Venice Wine and Coffee will have half-price iced coffee all day and Ciao Gelato will serve wine and gelato floats from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.”
Many of the other Downtown stores will join in the fun with specials, raffles and even Down Island Way Boutique’s “Almost Famous Rum Punch.”
In the evening hours, festival goers will also be able to enjoy those extended happy hours at Daiquiri Deck, TJ Carney’s, Made in Italy and Abby’s on Miami. In addition to Bonnell’s and Café Longet, the Olive Grove Wine Bar and the Zebra Piano Bar Lounge will also host wine tasting events.