Rowdies, Rays, Backyard BBQ top Memorial Day Weekend in the ‘burg

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Summer in St. Petersburg officially kicks off this weekend with an events lineup that is sure to please with sports, music, food, the outdoors and arts and culture stretching from Tropicana Field to the waterfront.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies look to add another win when they play host to the Minnesota Stars FC tonight at 7:30 p.m. The first 500 fans will receive an official 2012 team photo and members of the local armed services will be honored during the third annual Military Appreciation night. Discounted tickets are available for service men and women until noon today at 813-287-1539. Regular game tickets start as low as $10 and are available by phone, email at tickets@rowdiessoccer.comwww.rowdiessoccer.com or at 4:30 p.m. on game day at the Al Lang Stadium box office.

Everyone’s invited to soak up the sun, fun, live music and lots of BBQ when local radio station 97X hosts its free Backyard BBQ on Saturday in Vinoy Park. The annual event features music from national and local bands, highlighted with performances by this year’s Battle of the Bands winners, and vendor displays beginning at 11 a.m. The music festival is free but tickets are required. Information on ticket distribution locations is available at www.97XOnline.com. When there are no tickets left, admission to the event will cost $20.

Backyard BBQ fans are encouraged to avoid on-street parking for the all-day music festival and instead, find space in one of the two city-owned parking garages or the Al Lang Stadium parking lot, 230 First St. S.  It will cost $5 to park in either the BayWalk garage, accessible from Second St. N. between First and Second Aves. N., or in South Core, located one block to the south and accessible from First Ave. S., between First and Second Sts. S., as well as the Al Lang lot.

Festival fans can beat the heat aboard one of the free 97X Backyard BBQ shuttles that will be running for the event.  Red open air trolleys begin service to and from Vinoy Park at 10:30 a.m., with the last shuttle departing at 9 p.m.  Riders will be able to catch the shuttle from one of three convenient stops, including a new location in front of BayWalk garage. Locations include:

 • the Al Lang Stadium parking lot on the east side of First St., just south of First Ave. S;
 • in front of BayWalk garage, on the east side of First St., mid-block between First and Second Aves. N;
 • and in front of the Renaissance Vinoy Resort on the south side of Fifth Ave. N.E. just west of Bayshore Blvd.
For information and a printable shuttle map, visit www.StPeteTrolley.com/Events.html.

The Saturday Morning Market marks the change in seasons by closing for the summer following the May 26 market. However, the Market faithful may continue their weekend excursions June 2 with the return of the Williams Park Summer Market, 330 Second Ave. N. Now in its second year, the Summer Market features more than 40 vendors offering a selection of produce, gourmet food and desserts, along with one-of-a-kind jewelry, arts and crafts and clothing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through August 25.

On Memorial Day, baseball fans are invited to Tropicana Field for the start of a three-game home stand against the Chicago White Sox. Monday’s game gets underway at 3:10 p.m., followed by 7:10 p.m. Tuesday and 1:10 p.m. Wednesday.  Tickets are available at 888-FAN-RAYS or www.raysbaseball.com.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.