They came from as far as Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Canada.
And many more future brides and grooms came from Tampa and Orlando for the sixth annual Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival held May 5.
May 4 was the first registration day and 47 people took advantage of the chamber’s Saturday office opening, said chamber vice president Deb Wing.
“After signing up, many of them headed toward the Food and Wine on Pine in Anna Maria,” she said.
“We thought it was a perfect tie-in for our Sunday event and many attendees came for the weekend. We definitely put some heads in beds. And the future brides really did some spending.”
“We had 250 people attend and last year we had 300, but this year’s attendees were not just looking, they were buying their total wedding from the vendors,” Wing said.
Many of those at the festival came in groups of 10-14 people, Wing said, and a vendor was able to present products and services to them all at same time. At previous festivals, a lot of brides and couples would come just for a look, but often found long lines at a vendor site.
Not so this year, Wing said.
Attendees in their private vehicles, the island trolley, walking or taking a golf cart worked well to keep people flowing smoothly from one site to another, she said.
“Everybody kept moving from one venue to another in large groups and we had no backed up lines waiting to get to the vendor.
Wing did not have final figures, but estimated about 40 couples booked their wedding at the festival.
One vendor called Wing to thank her and the chamber for a great job and wanted on the vendor list for the 2014 festival.
“I probably have had 20 vendors call me last week asking about space for next year’s festival, Wing said, adding that one vendor said it was the “best ever” and he’d been a vendor at every festival.
The grand finale was at the Tortuga Inn Beach Resort in Bradenton Beach, with owner David Teitelbaum as host.
“That also was wonderful,” Wing said. “David did an amazing job of putting finale party together,” and more than $20,000 worth of wedding-related prizes were won by many of the couples.
The grand-prize winner was Laura Clements of Childstown, Ind. The Clements party flew from Ohio for the weekend, never dreaming that fortune would smile on them.
Wing said it was Clements’ sister, Heather Gioscio, who is the maid-of-honor for the planned October 2014 wedding, whose name was drawn for the grand prize. She promptly gave the $6,400 wedding package to her sister.
Clements said she and her future husband will be returning with a party of more than 100 people for their beach wedding.
“That’s what I call putting heads in beds,” Wing said.