Venice MainStreet’s Look Ahead for October

Venice MainStreet’s Look Ahead for October

Venice MainStreet has been creating events to help support local businesses over the summer and it isn’t slowing down in October. The spooky month kicks off with Octoberfest: Venice Style, October 4th 5-8pm.

“Residents and visitors love our Wine Walks and we knew we wanted to add another event to bring people downtown in October, so we developed Octoberfest: Venice Style,” Said Erin Silk, CEO of Venice MainStreet “Participating businesses will be serving 3 ounce samples of more than 20 varieties of brews and restaurants will be having specials and deals exclusive to the participants.”

The Octoberfest will run much like the very popular downtown wine walks. For $10, participants will receive a specialty sampling mug and a map that shows all of the participating businesses. They’ll be able to spend the evening sampling and shopping throughout downtown. The event will be limited to 2,000 participants said Silk. “You can purchase your tickets early at or the day-of downtown. We’re asking our community to come out and support our local merchants by shopping and eating in some of the most wonderful stores and restaurants in Florida.”

The 2nd Annual Masquerade Ball will be held on October 27th starting at 9 p.m. at Made in Italy. This is a fundraiser for Venice MainStreet. and, if it’s anything like last year, it should be a great time. There will be live music and raffles. Participants are encouraged to dress in their best Masquerade costume. Admission is free.

The month finishes out with the Downtown’s Halloween Trick or Treat event. Thousands of ghouls, goblins and monsters will descend upon Venice on the hunt for candy. The event will see some minor changes due to the downtown Beautification Project but children will still be able to go Trick or Treating throughout the Downtown businesses on October 31st. For more information on events, go to or find Venice MainStreet on Facebook. See you on the Avenues.

30TH Anniversary for MainStreet Inc.

30TH Anniversary for MainStreet Inc.

Venice MainStreet Inc., a volunteer driven 501(c)3 non-profit organization, celebrated its 30th anniversary as an accredited Main Street Program during the Secretary of State Awards Banquet at the Florida Main Street Annual Conference, held at Vero Beach, Fla., July 31.

Venice MainStreet was founded in May of 1987 by the Downtown Venice Association and accredited by the Florida and National Main Street organizations in 1988. Out of the 50 Florida Main Street organizations, Venice is one of the oldest.

“This is only possible due to the efforts of thousands of volunteers of three decades,” said Erin Silk, CEO of VMS Inc. “We’re also grateful to our community and business partners for contributing. They allow us to continue to do what we love to do, and that’s support the amazing city of Venice.”

The organization works in historic preservation, beautification, promotion and economic revitalization of Historic Downtown Venice, Florida.

“We’re excited to see what the next 30 years holds for Venice and Venice MainStreet.,” Silk stated.

“Made up of small towns, mid-sized communities, and urban commercial districts, the thousands of organizations, individuals, volunteers, and local leaders that make up Main Street America™ represent the broad diversity that makes this country so unique. Working together, the Main Street America Network helps to breathe new life into the places people call home,” according to

Each Brushstroke is a Decision

Each Brushstroke is a Decision

By: Marty Damon

Acclaimed Venice painter Mary Erickson could likely still produce the wedding cake of your dreams, but having just completed her 5,004th painting, she’d have trouble finding the time. It’s been an eclectic journey for Mary, from business school student to pastry chef to learning the ropes behind an art gallery counter, but each step formed the foundation for her successful thirty-year career.

Mary made her first sale at the age of 13, but was unable to attend art school, a circumstance she says proved to be, “The best thing that never happened to me.” Instead, she took business courses and worked as a pastry chef through her twenties. During these years she learned how to manage a business effectively and to deal with the fiscal responsibilities it entails, skills that proved invaluable as her career took off.

Mary continued building her knowledge after moving to Venice in 1986, where she was employed in a local gallery, and learned framing, marketing, and built her contacts in the art world. For years she carried her easel to the beach to fit in a few hours of painting before and after work until one day she brought a watercolor she’d just finished into the gallery. It sold that day. She brought in another one the next day and it sold as well. Seven years after she’d arrived in Venice, she began painting full time and now her work is a fixture in galleries in Charlotte, NC; Charleston, SC; St. Simons Island, GA; Naples, FL; Sarasota, FL; and Newport, RI.

Mary’s Venice paintings usually get their start on Casperson beach, one of her favorite places to paint because of its unspoiled beauty. You’ll find her there at sunrise, catching the cast of the light and the mood of a scene. She may produce a finished plein air piece, or carry a study back to her studio for further work. Ultimately, her goal is to bring her viewer into the painting to imagine the wind, the sun, and the sounds of that moment for themselves.
Mary’s reverence for nature is evident in her work, but also the groups to which she belongs. She is a founding member of the Southern Plein Air Artists, a juried member of Artists for Conservation and the Society of Animal Artists, the American Society of Marine Artists, and artists’ organizations dedicated to recording the southern landscape. In fact, every Mary Erickson print edition includes a special edition of 100 prints used exclusively to raise funds for conservation, preservation, and educational organizations throughout the USA.

As a world traveler, mentor, and ardent conservationist, Mary carries her passion for art and nature with her from Maine to Florida. After enjoying the winter at her studio on Venice Island, she’s on the road.

This spring her first stop will be France, where she will follow in the tradition of earlier plein air painters by gathering field studies to use as the basis of larger works. In the summer she’ll return to Port Clyde, Maine where she rents a large house and opens it to other artists for days of painting and evenings of art discussions.

With fall she plans to return to Europe, this time for the scenery of Italy, and in November she’ll be back to settle into her studio in Marshville, NC, where her 39 acre home will be one day become an artist retreat and bird sanctuary.

Visit for more information.

Call to Artist: 31st Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest

Call to Artist: 31st Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest

Official Poster Design Contest
November 3 & 4, 2018

Venice MainStreet, Inc. is holding a contest for the 31st Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest official poster design. The artist selected by the Design Committee will be awarded $500 for their design, along with a booth at the festival ($500 value, for a prize package worth $1,000). The winning design will be featured as the official poster, which will be showcased on merchandise* and in advertising**. The winner must be available for an unveiling event on the evening of Thursday, November 1, 2018.

• Original (unframed) artwork must be delivered to Collector’s Gallery and Framery (114 South Nokomis Avenue) by October 8, 2018.
• The winner must also submit a high-resolution editable, working digital file (for poster and merchandise production).
• Finished poster size will be 22” x 28” (original does not need to be the same size).
• Image must follow a theme of “Celebrating the arts of Venice.” (Copy that will be incorporated into the poster/merchandise will include “30th Annual Downtown Venice Art Fest”).

*the design will be showcased on other merchandise, along with the t-shirts.
**the design will be utilized in advertising done by Venice MainStreet, Inc. Any advertising done by Howard Alan Events may not include the design.

About the Downtown Venice Art Fest
The Downtown Venice Art Fest is one of the area’s largest and finest art shows. Tens of thousands of visitors kick-off season with this Howard Alan event that takes place along Venice Avenue in beautiful, Historic Downtown Venice. For more information, please call Venice MainStreet at (941)484-6722. Find out more about Howard Alan Events at

Please submit artist Information:
City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________________
Entry Title:_____________________________________________________________

Release: If the design I have submitted to the 2018 (31st Annual) Downtown Venice Art Fest Poster Design Contest is selected as the winning entry, Venice MainStreet and Howard Alan Events have the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, and distribute copies of the work. The original can be sold by me (the artist). In exchange for reproduction rights and preparation of high-resolution digital file, I will receive $500 and a booth at the festival.

Wine Walk Returns August 16

Wine Walk Returns August 16

Venice MainStreet Inc. (VMS) is asking the community to put on their walking shoes and get ready to sip and shop during a Wine Walk, August 16 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Those who purchase a ticket will be able to enjoy wine tasting at each of the participating locations, and VIPs will be able to enjoy specialty wines and hors d’oeuvres at the Made In Italy restaurant.

Attendees will have a variety of wines available as they shop from store to store, including wines from South Africa and California. Participating Businesses will be pouring 1-ounce tastings in 100% recyclable containers.

“We’re expecting around 700 people for this event,” said Nick Sperry, Events and Partnership Coordinator for VMS. “We love this event because our residents love it. It’s a great way to bring the community together.”

General tickets are $10 and VIP tickets are available for only $5 more. Tickets can be purchased early at Venice Wine and Coffee Co., The VMS Office, or online at They can also be purchased on the day of at the Centennial Park Kiosk or Burgundy Square Breezeway. Guests can pick up their wristbands and list of wine-tasting locations at the kiosk or breezeway at 5:00 p.m. on the day of.

The VIP Experience is sponsored by New Dawn Travels, “Curating Unique Life Experiences,” partnering with Oceania Cruises.

“One of my personal goals is to give back to the community and what better way than to support Venice MainStreet,” stated Dawn Perreault, certified Luxury Travel & River Cruise Specialist. “This is also a great opportunity for wine walkers, we’re giving exclusive offers up to $200 off and pre-paid gratuities on select sailings to those who participate in this event.”

Venice MainStreet Inc. is working hard on future events as well, such as the Barstool Open on August 25 and the Beach Party September 22. For more information on any of these events, contact the VMS office at (941) 484-6722.

Celebrate Downtown Venice Day

Celebrate Downtown Venice Day

by Sandi Chance

The Venice Newcomers Club and Newcomers of Venice Alumni are hosting a “Celebrate Downtown Venice Day,” Saturday, August 11 to give back to our beautiful, historic downtown during the Downtown Beautification Project.

The event starts at noon with free 45-minute trolley tours of historic Venice Island. Harry Klinkhamer, Manager of Historical Resources for the City, will share his wealth of knowledge about the history. The trolley stop will be near the Venice MainStreet Kiosk in Centennial Park and will go until 3:00 p.m.

Those who attend should plan to bring their bicycles as Bicycles International will host two bike tours at 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Beginning at the Gazebo in Centennial Park, join them as they go on a leisurely ride to and from the jetties. They’re also providing a free “Fix a Flat” workshop held at the Gazebo at 1:30 p.m., instructing how to properly fix a flat tire.

Downtown shoppers will have the chance to get into festive spirit by visiting with a full-face-painting artist by the kiosk between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There’s also a chance to relax with Afternoon High Tea, which will be held at Café 124, at 2:00 p.m., and Upper Crust, at 2:00 p.m. Many stores will join in the fun with specials, raffles and even Down Island Way Boutique’s almost famous rum punch.

Moving into the evening, downtown goers will be able to enjoy extended Happy Hours at Daiquiri Deck, TJ Carney’s, Made in Italy, Abby’s on Miami, and Ciao Gelato (Wine & Gelato Floats) from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Enjoy a variety of wines during the wine tasting events held at Café’ Longet, the Olive Grove Wine Bar, and the Zebra Piano Bar Lounge from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to support local businesses and have a great day shopping, learning and dining in Downtown Venice!

‘Tis the Season for…. Christmas in July!

‘Tis the Season for…. Christmas in July!

Venice MainStreet, Venice’s proud promoter of preservation and economic vitality for all things Downtown Venice, brings you Christmas in July 2018. Don’t miss the biggest two-day shopping spree of the year for bargains, discounts and ideas for Christmas and all your Holiday gift needs!

The stores and restaurants will celebrate from 10am to 5pm, Friday July 20 and Saturday July 21. Participating stores will offer entry forms for a competition to win one of three gift baskets totaling as much as $1,000 containing gifts and certificates donated by various downtown merchants. Shoppers can ride the free Christmas Trolley, sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Lueanne Wood, Venice Gondolier Sun and 92.1 CTQ, winding past the shops on the avenues downtown. Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride the trolley along with volunteers from the Venice-Nokomis Woman’s Club. You may be lucky enough to sit next to Santa and tell him want you want for Christmas. Santa and Mrs. Claus will stop for lunch at Bodrum 225 W. Miami Ave. on Friday at 12:30pm. Saturday, they will have lunch at Daiquiri Deck 300 W. Venice Ave. at 12:30pm. Saturday July 21st at 10am Santa will take a ride on Venice’s own 100’ Ladder Truck courtesy of the fine first responders of the Venice Fire Department, from the Venice Farmer’s Market, now on Avenues Des Parques in front of City Hall.

We are proud to announce the stores and restaurants that are participating in this iconic event: Always an Occasion Florist & Décor, Bodrum Mediterranean Restaurant, Bonnell’s Boutique & Winery, Café Venice, Captain’s Landing, Celebration Corner, Ciao Gelato, Cleopatra’s Bath & Body, Croissant & Company, DanaTyler, Dick’s Shoes, Down Island Way Boutique, DP Fitness and Wellness, Elephant’s Trunk Thrift Store, Eyes On You, Heitel Jewelers, Island Gift Nook, Island Life Hammocks, Lisa’s Classic Rose, Lueanne Wood PA Gulf Shores Realty, Made In Italy, Mothers Cupboard Spice Shoppe, Nana’s – A Children’s Shop, Needlefish Yarns of Venice, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Scarlet Macaw Resort wear, Seaside Chic Boutique, southeast salt, SunBug, T. J. Carney’s, Tangi & Jess, The Spice & Tea Exchange, The Tabletop Unique Home Accessories & Gifts, Venice In Vogue, Venice Stationers, Venice Olive Oil Company, Venice Wine and Coffee. A special thank you to Jacaranda Trace for the donation of a yummy Kilwin’s basket!

Downtown Reconstruction: We’re Still Open for Business!

Downtown Reconstruction: We’re Still Open for Business!

by Rod Nafziger, President Venice MainStreet

While the meaning of reconstruction is, “a thing that has been rebuilt after being damaged or destroyed,” heavy use certainly hasn’t destroyed our city, but it is time for renewal. Renewal is an opportunity to bring fresh life to something, to reinvigorate it and this is what will be witnessed by the entire community on the Avenues in our Historic Downtown District beginning in July.

Venice MainStreet is excited to experience this beautification transformation and we know you will be, too. Get out this summer and share the beautification with our businesses as they will be operating as normal during the reconstruction. Don’t worry, all the businesses will be accessible during construction, we will have plenty of parking for you as none of the large public lots will be affected and full road closures will only happen after 10pm.

Through the generous support of the Gulf Coast Foundation and the Venice Gondolier Sun, Venice MainStreet is proud to announce a “Summer of Love.” Residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy Venice’s renaissance first-hand. With Gulf Coast Foundation’s commitment to Venice MainStreet, Venice businesses will be able to participate in many of our promotions with no additional constraints to their marketing budgets. Venice MainStreet has instituted a robust “Summer of Love” marketing campaign.

We strongly encourage the community to support our local businesses and partake in the summer’s entertainment. Join us downtown on July 20th & 21st for the popular annual Christmas in July festivities. Stroll the holiday decorated avenues while you shop and dine. You may even sit next to Santa on the Trolley!

Enjoy a Wine Walk on August 16th and Barstool Open, August 25th, where your team can miniature golf around downtown. Followed by the September Craft Fair, Shoptember and the 3rd annual Venice Beach Party. Sip local brews at the Oktoberfest on the 4th of October. The 31st Annual November Art Festival, will surely be the perfect way to celebrate the beautification of Downtown Venice.

Venice MainStreet will be sharing work areas, progress and pictures of our renewed Avenues through the whole process. Like Venice MainStreet on Facebook. Be added to our email list to receive the Venice MainStreet weekly newsletter. Visit our revamped, mobile friendly website for easy access to key information at

The Icing on the Cake: VABI by Maria Baskin

The Icing on the Cake: VABI by Maria Baskin

“What’s living in Venice like for you?” I recently asked a group of friends. “Life is easier here,” one said as the others nodded in agreement. “But what makes it special?” l, “A sense of community. I feel I belong to a real town that cares how it develops, has history and appreciates the arts. I especially love what they’ve done with downtown Venice?” “That’s VABI,” I immediately responded. “VABI?” they asked.

VABI stands for Venice Area Beautification, Inc. a non-profit organization located west of the North Bridge. More than 150 volunteers, with the exception of one administrative assistant, are responsible for the selection, planting, and maintenance of those large potted plants, hanging baskets and the stone fountains overflowing with flowers all along W. Venice Avenue. The green shrubs and bushes on W. Venice are maintained by the Keep Venice Beautiful committee who is under the auspices of VABI. Keep your eyes out for the sculptures sprinkled around town in unexpected places. My favorite is still the one on the corner of W. Venice and Nokomis Avenues called “Maria’s Garden.”

”VABI is committed to making the Venice area a more beautiful place to live, work and play.” says Lynn Moseley, VP and chair of the Public Art Committee. VABI’s vision is to help build community in the greater Venice area by focusing on timeless projects that provide places to walk or sit and connect with nature. People can visit VABI’s latest beautification project up-lighting the banyan trees at Heritage Park along W. Venice Avenue. Create your own park adventure; pick up a map at the VABI office located at 257 N. Tamiami Trail for all 39 Venice parks.

In fact, the beautification work that VABI does is not just limited to downtown or the parks. In 2005 VABI put out a call to local artists to create murals in specific areas of Venice similar to the mural on the rear of the Gondolier building and at Venice Theatre. Another recent example is the Founders Walkway Mural leading from W. Venice to Miami Avenue. It is a lush green wooded painting by Joseph Barron called “Healing – The Enchanted Garden.”

VABI’s magic extends even beyond the island borders. Have you ever been to the Venetian Waterway Park that runs along both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway? It’s a VABI project and a must see. New park creations are in the works right at this very moment! The Ribbons Project is an ongoing effort to connect the bike trails from city of North Port to the city of Sarasota.

One of VABI’s main fundraising events each year is hosting a Christmas Boat Bash with a front row seat to view the Christmas Boat Parade. Also, at Christmas time VABI does a great job of getting residents and businesses in the spirit by allowing locals to adopt a tree at the Arboretum for free. It makes the traditional lighting of the tree at the Arboretum a spectacular event. But don’t wait for Christmas, visit the Arboretum now where VABI currently has four sculptures on display.

All this is made possible by the generous donations of our community. Please visit the VABI website at, for donor possibilities and/or volunteer opportunities. Having an organization like VABI keeping our city beautiful – is like the icing on the cake we call paradise.

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