DADE CITY — The 31st annual Flapjack Festival starts today, kicking off three days of midway rides, cake baking competitions and, well, flapjacks.
Sounds like the ingredients of an idyllic community gathering.
It was, until earlier this year when a controversy erupted over the festival's new location.
The flapjacks were formerly served at the Land O'Lakes Community Center. But nearby land used for festival parking has either been sold or put on the market.
Sanders Elementary School is expanding and put in extra parking on space it once donated for the midway.
"We didn't have the option of staying on the site," said Larry DeLucenay, who serves on the board of directors and is the past president of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the festival.
After checking out more than a dozen locations including Connerton and an area called the Concourse in the northwest part of the county, which both proved unworkable — the chamber decided the Pasco County Fairgrounds, about 20 miles northeast of the original site, was the best spot for the 31st annual Flapjack Festival.
The fairgrounds have ample parking and almost double the space for vendors.
"Unfortunately the past three years we have had to turn away vendors, we didn't have enough space," said DeLucenay.
Several years ago, the chamber dropped Land O'Lakes from the festival's name, upsetting some locals. The new location was a final blow. The chamber received angry phone calls and letters from area residents.
"The Flapjack Festival needs to stay in Land O'Lakes! If that means it can't grow bigger, or if it means it needs to be downsized, do it. Sometimes the history of your community is more important than bigger and better," land surveyor Eddie Jenkins wrote in a letter to the Times.
Others were pleased with the new locale.
"We've got a lot of positive input from other communities we're now bumping," said DeLucenay. "Those people now get to enjoy flapjacks a little easier."
The day before the festival, he was busy helping vendors set up shop and getting the flapjack grills in place. He also had another important duty.
"The chamber turns it over to me to schedule the weather," DeLucenay said. "I called the governor's office, we have perfect weather coming in for the weekend."
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 435-7312.