BROOKSVILLE — This past weekend's second annual Florida Blueberry Festival in Brooksville had a lot riding on it. Not only was it a calling card to potential visitors from all over Central Florida, but also it had to make a profit to return in the future.
It turns out, the event was a winner on both counts, said Michael Heard, chairwoman of Florida Blueberry Festival Inc.
A preliminary tally of gate receipts showed that festival pulled in between 45,000 and 50,000 visitors during its two days, she said. That should ensure a profit that will be divided between chosen charities.
"We're feeling very positive about how we did," Heard said Monday. "The vendors I talked to were pleased and told us they want to come back again next year."
Despite the threat of showers Saturday morning, the festival gates opened to a crowd eager to enter downtown Brooksville and munch on baked blueberry goods and shop at the booths of about 140 vendors.
Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn said many of the visitors commented on the city's attractiveness.
"I don't care who you are, when someone from out of town tells you they love your city, it makes you feel proud," Bradburn said.
Heard said she heard only a few complaints about the festival's new $5 adult admission charge and that most visitors seemed to feel it was in line with what other events of its type.
"People who don't understand probably don't know that it costs a lot of money to put this together," Heard said. "We couldn't continue to do this if we went broke every year."
Heard said that many of the people who attended complimented her volunteer staff on this year's changes. Most people seemed glad they could park closer to the downtown Brooksville. And the elimination of last year's "Blueberry Bucks," which patrons needed to buy food and beverages, probably accounted for an increase in sales, Heard said.
Heard said she and the festival have already looked at implementing more improvements next year, including re-routing the festival grounds to a more level area in order to better accommodate handicapped patrons.
"We're only in our second year, so there's always room for improvement," Heard said. "We're committed to make the blueberry festival the best we can make it."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.