BROOKSVILLE — Signs that Brooksville was about to become host to thousands of visitors began appearing on every downtown street corner as last-minute preparations for the inaugural Florida Blueberry Festival got under way Friday.
On Main Street, volunteers put the finishing touches on sidewalk kiosks containing fresh plants and flowers. In the newly renovated Hernando Park, a concert sound crew tested speakers and hung stage lighting. And along Howell Avenue, a crew of women prisoners set out cardboard trash receptacles and helped freshen landscaping along the route of the event kickoff parade.
"It's coming together very well," said festival volunteer and longtime city resident Pierre Des Jardins as he stacked parking signs at the festival's headquarters inside Brooksville City Hall. "There's a lot of positive activity going on in the city, and that's good to see. That kind of thing hasn't happened in a long while."
Indeed, the festival spirit even sparked some downtown business owners into putting fresh coats of paint over dreary storefronts.
"This is our opportunity as a community to put our best foot forward," said Brooksville Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn. "A lot of people are coming here, and we all want them to see the best we have to offer."
Preparations for the street festival, which continues from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, weren't without a few snags.
On Wednesday, a company hired to provide temporary bleachers for the Hernando Park band shell walked off the job after a contract dispute primarily concerning safety issues as well as the amount of seating that was to be provided.
Festival director Michael Heard said the dispute was minor, and another contractor was brought in at the last minute to complete the job. The new bleachers, which are mounted on a trailer, were set up in front of the park's tennis courts.
Amy Deuehl, who stopped for lunch Friday at the Rising Sun Cafe, said she was impressed by the amount of effort that has gone into making the downtown area more presentable for visitors.
"It's definitely making the city look more alive," she said. "You hope that it wants to make people come back again."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.