Sarasota Bayfront Park Over the Years

Embracing our Differences over the years

When I was a teen, I used to skip school and go hang out at Sarasota Bayfront Park. Back then, it was called “Island Park” and it will always be that to me. Before the statues and the fountains for the kids, Island Park had always been a refuge for Sarasota residents & visitors alike. A peaceful place with beautiful banyan trees to sit under, to read a book or have a picnic, I have always thought of it as Sarasota’s “Central Park”.

Sarasota Bayfront Park back in the day

Bayfront Park entrance arches

Back in the 70’s, musicians would play guitar, drawing audiences sitting in circles to sing along. Street people were always a part of the landscape and added character to the park. You would bring a blanket, a sandwich, a radio and hang out all day. There is the magnificent view of Sarasota Bay and the Ringling Bridge. There was a time when live music concerts were held in the park. Over the years the city has made positive changes with the children’s park & fountains that hosts many birthday parties, bench swings and the jogger’s trail. The dolphin fountain has become a well-known landmark. Of course, the annual July 4th fireworks have brought the entire city out to the park to celebrate our nation’s holiday!

What is “Embracing our Differences”?

Since 2004, the park has hosted “Embracing our Differences”. The Sarasota non-profit promotes diversity with International award-winning artwork. There are 50 billboard size displays throughout the park. Inspirational, thought-provoking, moving, the artwork is submitted by both adults and children. There were over 16,118 entries worldwide this year to get a chance to have their artwork shown in Sarasota. Since 2004, over 2 million people have come through the park to view the artwork. The display has been extended through the end of the month of April for people to be able to have an opportunity to see the amazing artwork.

Bayfront Park artwork -Embracing our Differences-

Visiting the Sarasota Bayfront Park during the Coronavirus outbreak

The park is open for essential exercise such as jogging, bringing your dog (leashed), biking and walking. There is also a canoe and small boat launch. Keep ‘social distancing’ of 6 feet and wear a mask if you choose. O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill is closed for now as well as LeBarge Tropical Cruises. You can get a close-up look of the boat and its mermaid mascots where the boat is docked. We look forward to seeing them coming back soon!

Still love it after all these years

Forty-five years have gone by since my school skipping days of hanging out at the park. Regardless of whether it is called Island Park or Bayfront Park, in many ways it has not changed much at all. That peaceful, easy feeling still washes over me upon being there. It will always be my favorite go-to Sarasota spot!

Photos from Vicky Sullivan / The Suncoast Post

Editors note: check out Jodi Schwarzenbach’s story about Sarasota Bayfront Park from 2017.

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2020-04-06