knoxville news
knoxville news knoxville daily sun lifestyle business knoxville sports travel knoxville classifieds knoxville jobs knoxville legal notices knoxville yellow pages smoky mountains contact facebook twitter linkedin rss entertainment knoxville advertising

There’s a sunset party every evening at Clearwater’s Pier 60
By Tom Adkinson

CLEARWATER, Florida – In a state where even a discounted theme park ticket can set you back almost a hundred bucks (try not to think about the total cost for a family), it’s a dream come true to find a top-quality attraction that is free. Yes, free.

Case in point: The Sunsets of Pier 60 Daily Festival in Clearwater on Florida’s west coast north of St. Petersburg.

clearwater pier 60
A guitarist on the beach by Pier 60 adds some Jimmy Buffet music to another Clearwater sunset; image by Tom Adkinson

Down in Key West, the same sunset provides the setting for the more famous silliness, rowdiness and weirdness that happens at Mallory Square, but the Clearwater event is a G-rated family friendly affair (OK, perhaps PG-13 in a few regards).

clearwater pier 60 art
A spray paint artist puts finishing touches on another colorful piece destined for someone’s TV room; image by Tom Adkinson

The moans of a jazz saxophone sometimes are in the mix of entertainment at a Clearwater sunset festival; image by Tom Adkinson.

On the pier and landside along the beach, you’ll find musicians, street performers, crafters and vendors of assorted touristy items. Doesn’t every child deserve the chance to buy a sand dollar decorated with pastel palm trees and dolphins, and doesn’t every adult crave the opportunity to buy a spray-painted beach scene, even if it never gets hung on the wall of the TV room back home?

There’s even a family movie night called Sunset Cinema, on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s like watching an old-fashioned drive-in movie, but in the open air on a blanket or a beach chair instead of from inside the family station wagon, or SUV, as the case may be today. Recent screenings: “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Aquaman,” “Holmes and Watson” and “A Dog’s Way Home.”

The Sunsets of Pier 60 have been a Clearwater staple since 1995 when the fun began as a Thursday-Monday event. Just three years later, Tuesday and Wednesday nights were added, too, and the frivolity happens every evening of the year now.

The festival is tourism promotion at its best. It is organized by a 501(c)(3) non-profit in cooperation with the local parks and recreation department and has clear goals. The most basic is getting visitors to stay longer in Clearwater, but parallel with that are supporting local crafters, increasing awareness of Florida artwork, providing free family entertainment and enriching the cultural experience of the community.

clearwater art
Permanent art in the form of this mermaid on a dolphin sculpture is part of the Pier 60 scene.; image by Tom Adkinson
clearwater fishing
Some locals, such as this fisherman, leave the Pier 60 festival activity for visitors to enjoy; image by Tom Adkinson.

While sunsets provide quiet drama, the festival’s street performers provide some human drama, plus laughter, excitement and occasionally awe. There are fire breathers, magicians, stilt walkers and other performers clamoring for your attention. I once watched a father-and-son escape artist team that made me both marvel and cringe as the son appeared to throw both shoulders out of joint in his successful struggle to free himself from a chain-wrapped straight jacket.

alligator jaws
“C’mon, Dad. You said I could bring home a souvenir from Florida.”; image by Tom Adkinson

Even though there’s no cost to attend the sunset festival, there’s a moral imperative if you laugh at a juggler, cheer for an acrobat or groan with an escape artist – always, always tip the street performers. Be generous, too, as you remember that you would have dropped a bundle of money had you gone to a theme park instead.

Trip-planning resources:, VisitStPeteClearwater and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published May 10, 2019

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2019 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy