Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

What we'll remember: Florida Blueberry Festival will return with leaner budget, changes

BROOKSVILLE

TOUTED for months as perhaps the largest public event ever hosted in Brooksville, the inaugural Florida Blueberry Festival in May created its share of hoopla and drew a lot of attention toward the small bucolic community.

Weeks before the event, a massive advertising blitz excitedly beckoned visitors to the center of Florida "blueberrydom," promising a good time for all.

If judged solely on figures provided by its organizers, it was a huge success.

The more than 40,000 people who descended on Brooksville's 14-square-block downtown district during the three-day event generated an estimated economic impact of $1.7 million on Hernando County. The county's tourism office tracked more than 313 room nights at motels and hotels. Area restaurants and businesses reported an uptick of $369,000 in sales tax revenue for the month, compared to 2011.

The event wasn't without its naysayers. Some downtown business owners complained that they were kept out of the loop when it came to planning. Organizers also drew the ire of a small citizens group worried that the small county-owned Hernando Park tennis courts would soon be demolished to make way for a permanent festival venue.

While the festival was deemed a success for the community, it earned a mere $4,000 profit after expenses were paid. More than $564,000 had been raised to stage it.

That said, festival chairwoman Michael Heard said next year's encore event, which she expects will cost about $200,000 to produce, needs to be done in a smarter, more economic fashion.

"We're going to have to work to make less do more," Heard said. "We learned a lot from the first one and made some mistakes. We don't intend to make them again."

Although sponsors such as Friendly Kia and the Florida Blueberry Growers Association are back on board, the 2013 event, scheduled for May 4 and 5, likely won't have nearly the budget of the inaugural festival.

And that means making some changes, Heard said. Gone will some of the more elaborate amenities, such as a fleet of shuttle buses to and from remote parking sites that cost organizers roughly $67,000 more than they brought in. And while next year's festival will likely feature fewer live entertainment stages, there will be a greater effort to attract more "name" acts that patrons will recognize.

Other improvements will include elimination of the bothersome "blueberry bucks," which proved to be confusing to many visitors looking to buy items from vendors. Next year's event also won't have a kickoff parade. Instead, organizers are planning a nighttime family fun event the weekend prior to the festival.

During the past several weeks, Heard has been lobbying local government officials to help pick up some of the cost of putting on the festival. Earlier this month, she approached county commissioners for $25,000 in sponsorship money to help with the expense of closing state roads for the event; she also asked them to consider closing the county government center at noon May 3 to make it easier for vendors to set up tents and booths.

Additionally, Heard has expressed interest in putting up fencing around the festival grounds so an admission fee can be collected.

"We're still very much in the planning stages right now," she said. "But we think we have a goal that we can achieve that will continue to make the blueberry festival a great event that will attract people to Hernando County for years to come."

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

The Blueberry Festival will return with a leaner budget and changes.

Comments
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 6 hours ago
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Phil Heasley of Naples caught the fish of his life, but the $2.8 million in tournament prize money got away. Heasley reeled in a 6-foot white marlin last year off Maryland’s coast. But in a sign of how concerned some big money tour...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Updated: 7 hours ago