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Land O'Lakes Flapjack Festival no flop but it's less a draw

LAND O'LAKES —It rained. The dates had to be changed, making opening night fall on Halloween. The economy is in the tank.

Plus, for the first time in its 31-year history, the Land O'Lakes Flapjack Festival was held not in Land O'Lakes, but more than 21 miles away at the Pasco County Fairgrounds near Dade City.

Those were among the reasons cited for why attendance was down a bit at the annual festival, the primary fundraiser for the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

But despite the challenges, the event more than broke even, organizers say.

"Everyone who came liked it and had a good time," said chamber director Kathy Dunkley. She didn't have figures on how much profit the organization made but said the nonprofit groups that did help out will receive something for their loyalty.

The decision to move the festival, historically held on land near the Land O'Lakes Community Center on U.S. 41, was controversial when it was announced in the spring.

Organizers said it was the last thing they wanted but they were left with no choice. With the event drawing about 40,000 visitors and land that had been used for parking under development contracts, they had to look elsewhere.

"Growth brings strange things," Dunkley said. "And sometimes not very popular changes."

To some old-timers, the decision to take away Land O'Lakes' signature event was tantamount to treason.

They wrote letters to the editor. Some refused to buy armbands that gave wearers unlimited access to midway rides. The festival lost a few sponsors, but Dunkley blamed those on the struggling economy.

Some organizations that had participated in the past said the new location was simply too far away.

But in the end, enough groups stood by the festival, Dunkley said. And they want to come back.

The Land O'Lakes High School Band Booster Club helped coordinate parking.

Sunlake High School also participated, with principal Angie Stone cooking the free flapjacks that early-bird visitors get.

"We'll make sure all those groups are taken care of," Dunkley said. "We will finish in the black."

Moving the festival also carried pluses. For the first time, organizers had an auditorium with a stage to put on the Miss Central Pasco pageant and other contests for children. They also had a pie and cake contest for the first time, with winners receiving souvenir aprons. But the best thing: no more portable toilets. "We had real bathrooms," Dunkley said.

Land O'Lakes Flapjack Festival no flop but it's less a draw 11/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 13, 2008 9:36pm]
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