The first annual Veterans Boat Show With a Twist of Parrot took place along the Safety Harbor waterfront over the weekend, and despite ideal weather and a boatload of activities, the event was plagued by sparse attendance and disgruntled vendors.
Opinions varied on the reasons for the light crowds; everything from event fatigue to unfamiliarity with the first-year festival was cited by various people Patch spoke with during the three-day event.
But many attendees cited the controversy surrounding the show's organizer, Glen Caristinos, as a reason for the low turnout, after a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times questioned the validity of the nonprofits Caristinos has said are to be the primary beneficiaries of the event.
"There is a rumor going around that not a nickel of the proceeds are going to vets. And that makes me concerned," one prominent local veteran said on Sunday afternoon following a Veterans Day ceremony at the adjacent park.
"A bunch of us (vets) are going to the next city commission meeting to query them on how the event was funded and under what auspices."
While the turnout was not what anyone had hoped for — Caristinos himself said he was disappointed with the attendance when asked during the event — there was no questioning the amount of time and effort he gave in putting the massive show together.
In addition to the dozens of boats, food and drink vendors and merchandisers, there was also live music, a pinup girl contest, flyovers and a VIP section.
Caristinos also had a Marine corporal from Quantico, VA, flown in to blow up balloons for kids, and he brought the renowned Cypress Gardens water ski team in to perform over the weekend.
"It's a very well-run event, one of the best run events I've ever been a part of," said local artist Stacy Roth, who had a booth at the show, on Saturday night.
"Glen did a great job putting this together. It's just too bad more people didn't turn out."
When asked why attendance wasn't better, Roth said the volume of events in Safety Harbor and neighboring towns over the past few weeks might have kept some people away.
"I think people might be burned out from all the events recently," she said. "I know I am!"