In the heart of St. Petersburg’s Crescent Lake Park lies its eponymous body of water, which serves as both the jewel of the neighborhood and home to a flourishing ecosystem. The 56-acre park is known for the great banyan tree growing on the eastern border of the lake—as well as Huggins-Stengel Field, a baseball diamond that once served as the New York Yankees’ spring training ground—but prides itself on the scenic lake at its center. The First Annual Friends of Crescent Lake Festival was held on Saturday, Sept. 17, hosted by the Friends of Crescent Lake, Chart 411, City Council Vice Chair Darden Rice, and the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association. The community event focused not only on celebrating this stunning natural landmark, but also teaching residents and visitors how to preserve it for generations to come.
Themes of conservation and sustainability permeated the festival, with vendor booths ranging from edible gardening to coastal cleanups lining the walkway circling the lake. Thanks to organizations including Boyd Hill Nature Preserve and the St. Petersburg Sustainability Council, volunteer opportunities abounded. Education was also prevalent, with Pathfinder and The Edible Peace Patch Project offering workshops on environmental responsibility and sustainable agriculture, respectively. Ecological activist groups also attended, such as Keep Pinellas Beautiful and the Surfrider Foundation, two organizations with a focus on maintaining aquatic ecosystems. Festival goers also enjoyed a variety of recreational activities, including calming group tai chi with the Tai Chi Society, a scavenger hunt identifying various flora and fauna indigenous to Crescent Lake, carnival-style games with sugary prizes, and even interaction with live birds, hosted by Boyd Hill Nature Preserve’s avian program. Also provided were a variety of refreshments: Kahwa offered samples of their coffee and a selection of fruit-flavored popsicles, while Chart 411 and the Friends of Crescent Lake sold freshly grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, small bags of potato chips and refillable, ecofriendly water bottles.
The celebration’s highlight was the re-dedication of Crescent Lake’s 175-foot water tower, decorated by artist Tom Stovall in 1994 with a mural of vibrantly painted fish. More than two decades later, the iconic water tower has been refurbished and Stovall’s artwork fully revitalized. The tower itself, built in 1923, still stabilizes the community’s water pressure to this day. The rededication ceremony featured Mayor Rick Kriseman, Vice Chair Darden Rice, and Stovall himself, all of whom delivered inspiring speeches about the beauty of surrounding nature and the future of Crescent Lake. An air of silence fell over the gathered crowd as the hosts and sponsors of the festival joined in the ribbon cutting, only for the chatter and celebration to resume moments later.
The fair as a whole was lively and welcoming, with a consistent flow of people walking along park trails set to the sparkling backdrop of the lake’s calm waters. Friends of Crescent Lake plans to honor their neighborhood and its aquatic gem by holding the festival yearly, with each subsequent event gaining in size, participation and fun. Events like this one serve to bolster the already powerful sense of unity among the people of this city, and as Mayor Kriseman so eloquently said, make it so “the sun is always shining on St. Pete.”