Bill DeYoung St. Pete Catalyst
In the works since last September, the first-ever Lealman Honey & Arts Festival takes place Saturday at five-acre Raymond H. Neri Park, the open green space in the heart of St. Petersburg’s unincorporated Lealman district.
The 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. family-friendly event was conceived by the newly-formed Lealman Engagement Events Committee, which includes representatives from Pinellas County, Florida Dream Center, Lealman Fire District, Pinellas County Housing Authority, Lealman Community Association, Lealman Community District Services, St. Petersburg Foundation and Exquisite Events & Marketing.
The committee was formed by the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners as part of its Community Redevelopment Area Plan (CRA) for Lealman.
“The county had done some stuff for Lealman over the years, but in some ways it had been a little bit forgotten,” said commissioner Charlie Justice. “I just saw it as an area of great need. But also, a lot of folks who are really good people, working hard to make things better. And I think in Lealman there’s really nothing but opportunity – there are beautiful parks and creeks in there, green space, but you’re high and dry as far a flood zone, and you have access to I-275 and U.S. 19.
“It seemed to me that if we put a little focus on there, we could improve the quality of life for the residents – and we can let the rest of the community know that ‘Hey, Lealman is a pretty neat spot.’”
Named for the late community booster Raymond Neri, the park – formerly known as Joe’s Creek Greenway Park – is located at 4303 43rd Avenue N.
Saturday’s event will be populated by area art and craft vendors, as well as those who sell locally-made honey (Lealman is known for, among other things, its honeybees and apiculturists).
Chainsaw sculptor Alex Carver will give demonstrations; there will be a glass-blowing demo from Token Tools.
Live music will be by the rock ‘n’ rolling Pink Streets band (starting at 10:30 a.m.), the jazz trio La Lucha (start time 12:30) and the rock/rhythm ‘n’ blues group Black Honkeys (taking the stage at 3 p.m.)
According to Justice, word seems to be getting out about Lealman. “There was a tree-lighting there last December, the first one ever,” he said, “and the park was packed. Families were there. And it was just incredibly heartwarming to see everyone come out and enjoy each other’s company.
“And we think the Honey Festival is another opportunity for that.”