VENICE, FL (WWSB) - Severe weather forced Sunday's Venice Sharkstooth Festival to close.
The closure didn't just affect those wanting to see sharksteeth, the biggest impact was felt by the Venice Special Olympics Athletes.
"In the 18 years we have put this on we have never had this happen," Event Director Maggie Riggall said. "When I got here Sunday morning the winds were just awful. A lot of the vendors had started to leave. It's their product that's out and they certainly don't want to damage their product."
Riggall told us the festival raises money for the local Special Olympics athletes. Shutting down a day of 5,000 to 6,000 attendees cost the group at least $20,000 in lost revenue.
"Losing a festival day, we take a big hit in raising the funds for those athletes," Riggall said.
The Sharkstooth Festival is a non-profit. The entrance fee and all beverage sales go towards supporting the Special Olympics athletes program and trips for the athletes to compete.
"We have a training facility here in Venice and so all of our equipment is stored out there. We have uniforms. We have an eight-lane track that our athletes use," Riggall said.
The money is needed to keep those programs afloat. But, the winds on Sunday were so strong, it actually ripped apart some of the vendor tents. We were told the very large beer tent was completely destroyed.
"They're thinking that maybe a waterspout came off the Gulf and the tents took the brunt of it."
The National Weather Service says there wasn’t a waterspout… still though, ABC7 First Alert Chief Meteorologist Bob Harrigan said winds reached 64 mph at the festival grounds. While those winds caused a lot of damage that had to be cleaned up on Monday, and the economic impact really hasn't hit home… Riggall said the Special Olympics team isn't going to let a storm cloud their spirits.
We asked, "What are you guys going to do now?" Riggall responded, "We're just going to regroup and get ready for next year." To which we said, "You're not going to be broken spirited?" Riggall said, "No! Never, ever, ever. We'll be here for next year."
The Venice Special Olympics team is accepting donations to help offset some of the lost revenue.
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