Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Florida Blueberry Festival ready for second go-round in Brooksville

BROOKSVILLE — Organizers of the Florida Blueberry Festival stepped into their new venture last year hoping that the investment of thousands of advertising dollars and many hours of planning would pay off by bringing hordes of visitors to downtown.

In one way, the event — which returns this weekend — was a success, drawing a crowd of about 40,000 over the course of the weekend.

In another way, it wasn't: despite spending well over $500,000 to put the festival on, it returned only a small profit to donate to charities.

The idea, said Michael Heard, chair of the Florida Blueberry Festival Inc., is to learn from it all.

"Last year was our training ground," said Heard. "We learned what worked and what didn't work. This year, we have the benefit of experience."

Among the first festival's growing pains: Organizers had to wrestle with the logistics of re-routing state road traffic around the city for the weekend. As a result, some feathers got ruffled, Heard said.

"Anytime you do something that's never been done before, you're bound to step on some toes," Heard said. "We listened and we made changes. And as a result, I think people will see a much smoother-running festival this year that is still just as fun."

Indeed, while the event drew a good crowd, many visitors complained about "Blueberry Bucks," which had to be purchased in order to buy beverages and food, and the cumbersome remote off-site parking, which required a 30-minute wait to board a bus to and from the event site. Such features have since been ditched in the name of simplicity and cost-savings, Heard said.

Despite the addition of a modest admission fee, Heard believes that visitors will still think the festival is a bargain.

Said Heard, "We've got so much to offer — 14 bands, arts and crafts, a great kids zone, plus car and motorcycle shows, I think our prices are right in line with what other events like this charge."

This year, the festival grounds will be slightly more compact, covering a portion of downtown that extends north from Liberty Street to Fort Dade Avenue, and east from Lemon Street to Magnolia Avenue. As was the case last year, roughly 140 food, beverage and merchandise vendors will be set up along Jefferson and Broad streets, selling everything from pizzas and corn dogs to freshly made blueberry shortcake.

The festival's entertainment lineup ranges from local and regional rock, country and blues, and will culminate with hit country artist Easton Corbin, who is scheduled to take the Hernando Park stage at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

This year's festival also will focus more on the arts, with regional artists competing for $4,000 in prize money. And the works of award-winning Hernando County wildlife artist Peter Gerbert will be on display at the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery.

Heard said one of the most important additions this year has been the uptick of support from the county and city of Brooksville. By pledging to act more as partners than mere hosts, she believes the festival has a strong future.

"The festival sells Brooksville and it sells Hernando County'" Heard said. "That's something positive that the entire community can embrace."

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

Comments
Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students were arrested Wednesday on charges that they made threats against their respective schools, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The threats were not credible and neither took steps to carry out those threats, deput...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

TAMPA — Former Florida state Rep. Robert Wallace ended his life Monday night by jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass, records show. He was 65.At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough C...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Focused on Cuba’s future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

Focused on Cuba’s future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

TAMPA — One highlight of a congressional delegation’s visit to Cuba this week was an impromptu meeting with President Raul Castro.But not for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.The Tampa Democrat joined five other Democrats on the trip, in part to investigate th...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students were arrested Wednesday on charges that they made threats against their respective schools, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The threats were not credible and neither took steps to carry out those threats, deput...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

TAMPA –– Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to ask embattled jobs center leader Ed Peachey to either resign or face termination over concerns the agency inflated job placement numbers with the state. Chairwoman Sandy Murman said commis...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Physician seeks Pasco Times building for rehab center

Physician seeks Pasco Times building for rehab center

PORT RICHEY — A Hudson physician hopes to acquire the Times Publishing Co. west Pasco office and convert it into an inpatient center for substance abuse rehabilitation and mental health care. Estaban Alfonzon Ruiz, a doctor of internal medicine, file...
Updated: 5 hours ago
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chairman of ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Updated: 6 hours ago
Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

New YorkDiving into toilet for poospirationToymakers have gone to the toilet for their latest creations. Mattel’s upcoming Flushin’ Frenzy game sends a brown plastic poop flying into the air. And its rival, Hasbro stuck with the potty humor after its...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Time line1918: Born into a strict Presbyterian family near Charlotte, N.C.1934: Accepts Christ at Charlotte revival by traveling evangelist Mordecai Ham.1936: Enrolls in Bob Jones College, Cleveland, Tenn.1937: Unhappy at Bob Jones, he enrolls in Flo...
Updated: 7 hours ago