ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY & DOWNTOWN PROJECTS 1985 The Downtown Venice Association was formed by the former Merchants Association in Venice, originally established in 1965.
1987 The Downtown Venice Association, with support from the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Venice, decides to form a non-profit corporation enabling them to apply for the Florida Main Street Project. By a unanimous decision of those at this meeting, Paul Intagliata, George Hunter, Jr, Bill Reilly, Jerrel Towery and Don Patterson were elected as the first five board members of Venice Main Street, Inc.
1988 Venice is chosen as a Florida MainStreet City and selects its first MainStreet manager. Venice MainStreet, Inc. received its 501(c)3 tax exempt status. First year activities concentrated on the organization’s foundation work. A full-time manager, Doug Mann, is hired to oversee the activities, educate participants and the public and promote the program. Heavy emphasis is placed on promotional activities and producing newsletters, brochures and special events held in conjunction with other community groups. Rehab projects, locating new businesses in the downtown area and annual special events give an overall sense that the core of the downtown area is not only thriving but progressing and that the program is working.
1989 Second year activities encompass more visible aspects of the program, such as the Gateway Arch sign at the entrance of the downtown area, in the median of the first block of West Venice Avenue. Supported by pairs of columns, this sign shows Venice’s commitment to preserving its Northern Italian-style architecture. The area is enhanced by the Venice Area Garden Club’s landscaping project.
1992 Venice MainStreet (VMS) donates $1,500 to the historic Triangle Inn project.
1995 VMS partners with the City of Venice to design the Centennial Park restrooms. The City receives national awards for the designs.
1996 VMS installs cement podiums and way-finding maps throughout downtown Venice.
Together with Venice Heritage Foundation, VMS funds a feasibility study of renovating the Historic Train Depot.
Designs and purchases city light pole banners and Christmas lights. The City of Venice helps to install them.
Approved and participated in the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce 20/20 Vision of Venice Task Force.
1997 Installs newspaper boxes downtown.
Rollins Coakley sat on the Venice MainStreet Task Force for renovation planning of the Historic Venice Train Depot.
1998 Designs and constructs the downtown Information Kiosk in Centennial Park.
2006 Through grants from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Ehrhart Family Foundation, VMS installs the Intergenerational Fountain in Centennial Park.
2011 In partnership with Venice Area Beautification Inc, VMS installs 12 bike racks.
2014 VMS, Venice Blue’s Festival, and Suncoast Blues Society donate $1,000 for Venice High School Band Sousaphone repairs.
2015 Installs lighted Venice advertisement at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ).
Partners with Venice Heritage, Inc. (VHI) to produce and install 186 historic sign toppers that identify the historic John Nolen District. VMS and VHI receive the 2016 Heritage Award in Public Education for the project by the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County.
VMS, Venice Blue’s Festival, and Suncoast Blues Society donate $3,000 to the Venice High School Band.
Launches www.VisitVeniceFL.org, the go-to website for Venice residents and visitors. Within a year, the site gets 10,000 visitors per month.
2016 Updates iconic West Venice Avenue archway sign with state-of-the-art, electronic LED sign.
Launches Lovin’ Our Locals summertime campaign directed at creating a renewed sense of ownership in downtown by year-round Venice residents.
In a joint project with Venice Area Beautification Inc, VMS installs 13 planted pots along Miami Ave. This project was supported by a grant from the Venice Area Garden Club.
2017 Installs large advertisement mural titled “Venice Is” at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) showcasing all the benefits Venice has to offer visitors and the community, with the help of supporting grants from Visit Sarasota, the Ehrhart Family Foundation and our advertising partners.
2018 Begins year-long “Summer of Love” marketing campaign, with support from Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Venice Gondolier Sun, to keep locals and tourists visiting the historic district during construction resulting from the Downtown Venice Beautification Project by the City of Venice (Venice, Florida Municipal Government).
2019 Completes interactive, three-dimensional mural project at the corner of West Venice Avenue and Nassau Street (east wall of Celebration Corner) painted by David Lee with funding from Visit Florida, Ehrhart Family Foundation, and private donors.
In the summer, begins monthly appearances on ABC7’s Suncoast View to showcase downtown Venice district, shops and restaurants.
Launches improved website visitvenicefl.org with interactive map of local businesses and organizations funded by Visit Florida.
On November 12th, the City of Venice makes a proclamation to welcome new fairy residents to Venice. This launches the fairy door project in downtown Venice where ceramic doors made by local artists and high school students are installed by The Venice Company. This is a joint project between Venice MainStreet and the Venice Art Center, with funding from The Ehrhart Family Foundation.
There are so many fun ways to discover local Venice history! Here are some great options to explore.
Historic Downtown Venice Self-Guided Tour Online map available HERE Pick up a printed map at the Centennial Park Information Kiosk at 200 West Venice Avenue or at the Venice MainStreet Office at 101 West Venice Ave. Suite 23.
Historic Venice Train Depot Explore on your own or take a docent-led tour of the historic 1927 Venice Train Depot. Tours are offered by the Venice Area Historical Society (please check website for tour details). Explore the adjacent Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park with its statue of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus animal trainer, Gunther Gebel Williams; a restored caboose, donated by CSX Corporation; and restored Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train car installed in 2021. Located at 303 East Venice Ave., Venice FL 34285. veniceareahistoricalsociety.org
Kentucky Military Institute display at San Marco Building Visitors to the historic San Marco on Tampa Avenue can enjoy a display honoring the legacy of the Kentucky Military Institute (KMI) in Venice. Funded by the KMI Alumni Association, in partnership with the Venice Centre Association and its collection, it includes memorabilia, photographs and a documentary on the fascinating history of the military school in Venice from 1933 to 1970. 238 Tampa Avenue West, Venice, FL 34285 Learn more about the San Marco
Lord-Higel House Constructed in 1896 by Joseph Lord, the Lord-Higel House is the second oldest house in Sarasota County. 409 Granada Ave., Venice, FL 34285 veniceheritage.org
Sarasota County Auto Tours The Sarasota County Centennial Committee is pleased to announce the release of its auto tours available on a free app. Explore Sarasota County’s notable landmarks and places of interest. As you travel from place to place we’ll take you back in time. Hear the stories and see the sights that are part of the colorful history of Sarasota County, Florida. Audio narration and travel directions will trigger automatically as you drive (with GPS location services enabled on your phone). Auto Tours include the following: BAYFRONT, BEE RIDGE, COURTHOUSE AREA, DOWNTOWN/5 POINTS, ENGLEWOOD, FRUITVILLE to MIAKKA, PHILLIPPI, and VAMO to LAUREL. Narrated history tour download available HERE
Venice Museum & Archives Located in the historic Triangle Inn listed on National Register of Historic Places. Docent-led tours available. Current Exhibit: Life on the Venice Army Air Base: The Vaughn Pitman Collection, now through January 18, 2023 351 Nassau Street South, Venice, FL 34285 (941) 486-2487 venicemuseum.org
Venice Quest Scavenger Hunt Presented by Venice Area Chamber of Commerce. Download free Scavify App at Google Play or AppStore. – FantaSea Mermaids & Seahorses Quest – History – Arts & Culture – Downtown/Venice Beach Walk – Young at Heart – Shark Spotting – Search for Fairy Doors – Venice Public Library Centennial Quest venicechamber.com ________________________________________________ NEED TICKETS OR RESERVATIONS:
Sarasota Suncoast Tours/ Key Culinary Tours Offers Sarasota County area ghost tours, family adventure tours, private group sightseeing trolley or mini bus tours, and food tours. keyculinarytours.com
Architectural Walking Tours
Offered by Venice Museum & Archives Seasonal walking tours (typically January through April)
Explore historic neighborhoods and architecture on Venice island led by Architectural Historian, Sebastian Liseo. venicemuseum.org
Venice Florida Tours Offers Venice history walking, bicycling, ghost tours, as well as tours by golf cart. Private tours are also available upon request. venicefltours.com
West Venice Avenue (5 sharks) Dedication plaque- 200 West Venice Avenue by children’s splash pad fountain #1 Megalodon Shark, 200 West Venice Avenue- Centennial Park gazebo #5 Bull Shark, 310 West Venice Avenue- FourThought Private Wealth building, next to Rose & Leo boutique #6 Sandbar Shark, 303 West Venice Avenue- near Celebration Corner and Lisa’s Classic Rose stores #7 Hammerhead Shark, Near 237 West Venice Avenue- Founders Walkway with mural connecting Venice Ave. with Miami Ave. #10 Blacktip Shark, 141 West Venice Avenue- SunBug boutique
Nokomis Avenue N (1 shark) #2 Tiger Shark, 110 Nokomis Avenue N- near Michael Saunders & Company real estate office
Tampa Avenue W (2 sharks) #3 Snaggletooth Shark, 100 Tampa Avenue West- Michael Biehl Park next to Venice Theatre #4 Lemon Shark, 238 Tampa Avenue West- San Marco building
Miami Avenue W (2 sharks) #8 Nurse Shark, 312 Miami Avenue West- First Baptist Church #9 Bonnethead Shark, Intersection of Miami Avenue West, Ponce De Leon and Nokomis Avenue- Fountain Park
2020 PROJECTS Despite the challenges of reduced staff hours, as a result of the financial impact of COVID-19 on our organization, we still managed to accomplish a great deal in 2020, along with our 18 downtown district events.
COVID-19 RESPONSE – Created COVID-19 resource page on VisitVeniceFL.org to assist local businesses – Distributed thousands of masks in partnership with the City of Venice – Collaborated with the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce on COVID-19 safety plan signs and Positivity Wall project
WEBSITE IMPROVEMENTS – Created 16 new website pages for VisitVeniceFL.org to provide in depth content – Digitized past art festival posters and uploaded to VisitVeniceFL.org
NEW MARKETING STRATEGIES – Implemented “Looking forward to your safe return” marketing campaign – Offered over 60 free Venice Gondolier Sun advertisements to partners – Advertised in Venice Gulf Coast Living and Venice Lifestyle magazines – Highlighted downtown Venice and 11 business partners in 4 Suncoast View television spots
CONTINUED MARKETING STRATEGIES – Published 53 newsletters sharing information on thousands of events and partner announcements – Posted 69 news blogs on VisitVeniceFL.org – Posted 1,282 community events on VisitVeniceFL.org 2020 calendar – Created district and partner-focused content for 12 full pages in the Venice Gondolier Sun, published bi-monthly – Created and published 20,000 copies of the printed Venice MainStreet directory – Continued funding Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport “Venice Is” advertising mural – Managed content and promotions on downtown LED gateway arch sign – Managed Downtown Ambassadors volunteer program and information kiosk – Managed content on our social media platforms and purchased Facebook ads
HISTORIC PRESERVATION PROMOTION & ADVOCACY – Updated downtown historic walking tour webpage on VisitVeniceFL.org – Wrote letters of support for Old Betsy fire turck storage/exhibit building and 233 Pensacola Road historic house preservation
COMMUNITY OUTREACH – Promoted VMS and downtown district by giving talks to Venice Citizens Academy; Venice Gardens Civic Association; Business and Professional Women of Englewood and Venice; and Visit Sarasota groups
DOWNTOWN DESIGN ACTIVITIES – Launched downtown Fairy Door project, VeniceFairies.com website and Facebook page – Partnered with the City of Venice to install 3 alleyway signs for Calle de las Tiendas – Held call to artists and judged 2020 Venice Art Festival poster contest – Funded additional downtown holiday lighting and Venice Area Garden Club decorations – Held downtown holiday window decorating contest and awarded 6 winners
2020 EVENTS Venice MainStreet’s Friday Night Gazebo Concert Series January 10- Josh Reilly Trio January 24- Johnny Rawls February 14 – Patchouli and Terra Guitarra February 28 – Wendy Barmore March 13 – Matthew Mayes and Forrest Shafer November 13- Cryin’ Shames November 27- Blues to Blackstreet December 11- Sounds of Christmas
Gazebo Starlight Cinema in partnership with Venice Institute for the Performing Arts January 3- Percy Jackson and the Olympians February 7- X-Men March 6- The Sand Lot
Venice MainStreet’s Signature Events – 13th Annual Downtown Venice Craft Festival in partnership with Howard Alan Events, January 25-26 – Braves on Miami Ave.: Mardi Gras Style in partnership with Atlanta Braves, February 8 – Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Crawl, February 25 – 19th Annual Venice Art Classic in partnership with Howard Alan Events, March 7-8 – Christmas in July, July 17-18 – Shoptember Sidewalk Sale, September 4-5 – Classic Evenings on the Avenues, October 8 – Classic Evenings on the Avenues, October 22 – Chocolate Walk, November 19 – Christmas Walk, December 3