Our hometown main street closes to vehicular traffic at certain times of the year to host a parade, art festivals, car shows and costumed characters trick or treating.
We’re special…. Over the course of many years, a tradition of special events has developed along Sunset Drive for families to enjoy. Celebrations that help define who we are as a people have been part of our experience for decades. These popular occasions to get out and about are presented in a setting that offers an array of chic boutiques, great restaurants and upscale personal services establishments. Local businesses, the City of South Miami and other generous community institutions and sponsors help to support these all-important community events.
The longest running event is the ChamberSOUTH South Miami Art Festival. Held on the first weekend in November, this juried art show presents on average some 120 artists from around the country and ranked in the top 100 fine art shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine. The festival consistently draws in excess of 40,000 people and has been going strong since it was launched in 1971. For two days, Sunset Drive in our town center is converted into a promenade where you can enjoy great art, delicious food and entertainment.
In 1983, Santa’s Parade of the Elves was established by the Red/Sunset Merchants Association. The parade route along Sunset Drive is typically filled with over 500 children dressed as Santa’s elves and other holiday fantasies. Always a popular event with some 5,000 people lining Sunset Drive, this annual tradition is “the best hometown, homegrown parade in Miami-Dade County.” Held on the first Sunday in December, 2015 marks the 32nd annual parade.
A Parade Planning Committee comprised of civic and business leaders has ensured the parade tradition lives on. In addition to city staff, the committee includes representatives from FootWorks, the First National Bank of South Miami, ChamberSouth, South Miami Hospital and SOMI Magazine.
Veronica Flores, Executive Vice President of FNBSM has chaired the committee for the past three years, and exclaims: “It is all about the children…we welcome all children to join Santa and march proudly down Sunset Drive.” The tradition has moved from one generation to the next, with those who participated as children now watching their children march in the parade.
Sponsored by the City of South Miami for two decades, over 80 parade entries include local high school marching bands, Girl Scout and Brownie Troops, church groups, decorated cars and floats. From the first year and for years following, some of the prized returning entries include the South Florida Trail Riders, South Miami Senior High School Band, the Mahi Shriners, the St. Andrews Pipe Band and the South Miami Hospital float. Since 1994, the First National Bank of South Miami has had the honor of presenting Santa atop a beautiful float. Santa always didn’t have a float. In the early years, South Miami Mayor Jack Block was Santa riding a tricycle; later parades saw Santa riding in a convertible, in a fire truck and on a decorated flat-bed truck.
Safe Streets Halloween was begun in the mid-1980s in response to the need for a safe environment for area children to go trick or treating. With the support of the City of South Miami, Sunset Drive is closed off from US1 to Red Road from 4-6pm to create a pedestrian mall where costumed children and adults gather and safely roam in search of treats provided by local businesses. Over the last several years, a haunted house, created and hosted at Veronica’s Doll House has been a popular addition to the event with a waiting line wrapping around the corner. Other fun activities include a costume contest held at Splitsville, and games, entertainment and treats within The Shops at Sunset Place. This was the favorite South Miami event of the late Hans Huseby of FootWorks. “Papa Hans” would dress up as a clown dispensing free “haircuts” to intrepid dads and children. This year, Hans’ son JP donned the costume and gave out the haircuts. The tradition passes down…Exhibited at a recent Rotary Art Festival was a stunning bronze sculpture “The Calling” by Bob and Jo Wilfong of Washington state.
The Rotary Club of South Miami presents its annual art festival on Sunset Drive during the last full weekend of February. What began as a Craftsman Festival in 1984 grew to include fine art in 2006. Proceeds from the festival fund scholarships and international and local community service projects, all in keeping with the Rotary club’s motto to place “service above self.”
With an audience numbering about 30,000, the festival features 150 exhibits of fine arts and high-end crafts from around the country, multinational food, live music, a beer garden and great raffles. The festival includes the “Children’s Alley” with interactive and educational activities geared just for kids. Future plans include showcasing artwork by local school students as part of the Children’s Alley.
Organizer Wendy Lapidus, a Rotarian for over 20 years, says she joined the club because of the good work they were doing with the art festival. “It was and still is a project with which I wanted to become involved.Rotary is a wonderful opportunity for service and camaraderie and I get to have both while doing what I love.”
Volkswagen aficionados, casual car buffs and weekend fun-seekers descend on Sunset Drive for Volksblast, generally held in early February. The event was first held in 1998 and hosted at the First National Bank of South Miami parking lot. It originated with VW owners desire to organize events to help raise funds for local charities. Giving back to the community, especially the ones in need, was their main focus. Many VW owners donated time as a club in helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity. Over the course of the years, VolksBlast has raised over $100,000 for different local charities. For the past several years, with support from the City of South Miami, the VW Show has been held on Sunset Drive, with over 200 cars and several thousand spectators. For additional information go to .
Our town center business district has other events during the year which are not held on our main street.
Summertime in South Miami kicks off with the annual Twlight 5K Run & Fitness Walk. This event grew out of FootWork’s Hans and Laurie Huseby’s desire to have a nice, neighborhood run/walk staged in their “backyard.” Another family-centered event, the race often attracts three generations of the same family that includes plenty of children. Good for cementing that community spirit, but also good for your health, the Twilight 5K has attracted the attention of homeowners along the route. Using their front lawns as hydration stations, homeowners offer runners and walkers a cool drink of water on their way to the finish line in our town center. Some 1,400 participants got to exercise and enjoy that friendly, small town atmosphere for which South Miami has become famous. Proceeds from the event go to benefit local charities and organizations.
The 2015 Twilight 5K, presented by South Miami Hospital, was held in memory of John “Hans” Huseby. ()
SOMIartwalk© is an event that occurs on the second Friday of each month from October through March. Unlike an art festival, artwalk doesn’t require closing Sunset Drive. One can stroll through our town center, view the artwork on display at local shops and enjoy all that the city has to offer in the evening. Artwalk spans our town center from US1 and Sunset to the other side of town east of Red Road at the Doc Thomas House, home to the Tropical Audubon Society. Students from local schools entertain our South Miami visitors with musical performances and student artwork is also highlighted as part of the SOMI Sidewalk Showcase. Members of the South Miami Senior High JROTC serve as Artwalk Ambassadors providing information to our visitors. For more information, go to .At VIGI Miami, owner Vigi Lovaton & Chad greet trick or treaters. SMPD Sgt. Henry Gusman with 4 year old Julien Campo.
While not happening directly in our business district, the community also celebrates the remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with festivities during Black History Month in February each year. And of course the community comes together for the annual July 4th celebration at Palmer Park.
Join us in SOMI. For a small town, South Miami offers a lot of big city amenities, including fabulous year-round events. The annual events produced over these many years would not be possible without the cooperation of the City of South Miami, our area businesses, presenting sponsors, the volunteers from the local chapters of international service organizations and he community-at-large.
Events are free and open to the general public. Convenient parking can be found in the Municipal Parking Garage located on 73rd Street. Public transit is directly accessible at the South Miami Metrorail Station, which also provides additional parking. And one of the best ways to enjoy SOMI is to ride your two wheels to town and cycle SOMI.