Downtown Bartow Celebrated 29th Annual Honey Bee Festival & Craft Fair
by James Coulter
Everyone in Downtown Bartow was as busy as a bee as they flocked to the 29th Annual Honey Bee Festival. More than 110 vendors lined the street to offer a variety of homemade, all-season crafts, as well as showcase honey and honey-related products.
Attendees could browse through various wares ranging from holiday wreaths to personalized mugs and tumblers to even a pumpkin sale by the Young Farmers & Ranchers. True to its name, the festival also included various honey-related food and products, including honey treats, honey wine tasting, and even observation hives showcased by the Ridge Beekeepers Association.
For the past five years, the Ridge Beekeepers Association has been involved with the annual craft fair. Their involvement has created quite the buzz, as they often use the opportunity to educate locals and guests about the importance of beekeeping.
One of the biggest challenges is dealing with viruses and other diseases that affect bees and local flora. What people spray on their plants also has a major effect on honeybees, so that’s another major concern, he said.
David Smith, President of the Ridge Beekeepers Association, oversaw their main booth, which displayed an observation hive, allowing curious onlookers to see as live bees tended to a hive.
“That was another way to teach people about the honey bees,” Smith said. “Our main goal is to teach people about honeybees, how to take care of them their importance with pollination and making honey and how we keep them alive.”
Even in spite of these uncertain times, the event managed to draw in hundreds of attendees. Of course, to ensure protections against COVID-19, pre-cautions were taken. Five mask stations provided free masks, booths were set more than 12-feet apart from one another, and people were encouraged to wear masks and social distance.
“Our retail merchants are open and doing great, our eateries are open for business, and the weather is nice here in Bartow. So we couldn’t ask for anything nicer here today,” said Linda Holcomb.
Holcomb loves seeing everyone come out. The event has remained one of Downtown Bartow’s most popular events. For nearly 30 years, it has drawn such large crowds, even during such hectic, uncertain times.
“It is very popular,” she said. “I have to brag and say we put on a wonderful show. We treat the merchants right. We treat the vendors right. And Bartow welcomes them with open arms.”
Joyce Hatfield, owner of Joyce’s Sand Art, regularly attends such as this throughout the city and county. She has brought her sand art to events such as Haven Holiday Markets, Carols in the Park, and Polk State Fall Fest.
She especially loves the Bartow art fair and bee festival. The entry fee for vendors is always a good price, and she appreciates how it brings the community together. As someone born in Winter Haven and raised in Dundee, she loves the down-home country feel.
“I love the people and my kind of people,” I love the country narrative. Everybody is interested in what everybody is doing. Everybody is friendly. It has been a good event today. The sales have been, they are not fantastic, but people are buying.”