Bartow Honey Bee Festival and Craft Fair Celebrates Biggest Event Ever
by James Coulter
Most people expect to see honeybees at a honey bee festival. But, this year, attendees at the Annual Honey Bee Festival could see butterflies as well.
Go Natural Organic Butterflies set up a butterfly tent outside the Historical Center at this year’s event. Attendees could step inside, pick up a cotton swab dabbed with sugar mixture, and look at dozens of butterflies up-close. Some of the butterfly species on display included white peacocks, malachites, julias, and zebra longwings.
Last Saturday was the first time Go Natural attended the Annual Honey Bee Festival in Downtown Bartow. They had previously set up their butterfly tent during the Bloomin Art Festival in May.
Jan Austin, one of the volunteers for Go Natural, noted how the overall event started slow but quickly picked up foot traffic,with more people turning out throughout the morning and afternoon. She appreciated being able to attend and share with people information about butterflies.
“They can find enjoyment and pleasure and learn more about nature,” she said. “I enjoy everybody. It is a pleasure watching everyone enjoy it, and it is a very good feeling.”
Main Street Bartow hosted its 30th Annual Honey Bee Festivaland Crafts Fair last Saturday. Several dozen vendors set up their booths along Main Street, allowing attendees to peruse their merchandise, arts, and crafts.
Many of these vendors featured products made from honey and beeswax. The Ridge Beekeepers even set up live honey bee demonstrations, allowing curious onlookers to watch as bees worked within a transparent hive to produce wax and honey.
David Smith, President of the Ridge Beekeepers, regularly attends the annual bee festival to educate the public about beekeeping. In addition, his organization meets monthly on the third Wednesday at the Polk County Extension Office along Highway 17, where their members discuss beekeeping and even offer outdoor demonstrations.
“This is where we can come and talk to people about the importance of bees,” he said. “If they want to get more educated, they can come to our meetings. I think (this year’s event) has turned out great. There are a lot of people here. They are asking a lot of questions, and that is always a good thing.”
This year’s bee festival and crafts fair proved to be their biggest yet, explained Linda Holcomb, President of Main Street Bartow. More than 126 vendors lined the streets, which were packed with attendees not only buying from the vendors but also from local shops and cafes, she said.
“It is one of our biggest yet,” she said. “The streets are packed. People are shopping and buying, they are shopping in the retail stores, and everybody seems to be happy.”
The Honey Bee Festival has been going strong for the past 30 years. Its long-running success has been attributed to its overall reputation, Holcomb said. The organizers work hard to ensure the event runs smoothly, and people have come to expect great times downtown, whether they are a local or a visitor.
“We work hard with it,” she said. “We try to work to make sure the vendors are happy, we have a lot to offer the community, and our reputation has grown over the years…I like seeing all the people in our retail eateries and businesses and them coming to beautiful downtown Bartow and doing business with us.”
Downtown Bartow will be kicking off its holiday next Friday with their Magic on Main, where the downtown area will light up for the holidays at 6:30 pm. Other holiday festivities include the Mistletoe Market on Dec. 4 and the Bartow Christmas Parade on Dec. 10. For more information, visit their Facebook page.