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Brooksville street closings among concerns for first-ever Florida Blueberry Festival

BROOKSVILLE — By most accounts, the inaugural Florida Blueberry Festival is destined to bring great things to the sleepy municipality of Brooksville. Indeed, the prospect of hosting what is likely to be the largest public event in the city's history has the entire town buzzing.

But according to a traffic logistics plan unveiled at Monday night's Brooksville City Council meeting, anyone with business to conduct during the three-day event will want to do some homework before driving downtown.

Most public roads in the city's core will be closed to through vehicle traffic during event hours on May 4, 5 and 6. Visitors not heading to the festival will be redirected to designated detours around the city. Those attending the event will be sent to off-site parking locations and shuttled to the festival.

Cliff Manuel, president of Coastal Engineering Associates of Brooksville and a volunteer who is helping with festival logistics, said that state DOT officials have approved a plan to close two state roads, Broad and Jefferson streets, starting about 6:30 p.m. May 4 and continuing through May 6, and that signs designating detours will go up two weeks before the festival.

Traffic through the downtown area will be detoured using the State Road 50 truck route, Cobb Road and other routes around the city's perimeter.

Festival coordinator Michael Heard told council members that she and her group are diligently trying to notify residents and downtown business owners well in advance of the festival in order to minimize any inconveniences. Downtown business owners and residents who need downtown access will be given special parking passes. she said.

But not everyone is happy with the street closings. Patricia Lambright, owner of Patricia's Boutique on Main Street, said that while most downtown businesses are normally closed on Saturdays, hers isn't. And with the festival occurring during the height of the high school prom season, she wonders what the effect will be on her business.

"I have no idea what to tell my customers who will be coming by that weekend," Lambright said. "I worry that they won't be able to get down here if all the roads are closed."

Lambright said she's heard little from festival organizers, and was unaware until a few days ago that her store's parking lot will be the site of a motorcycle show during the event.

To make sure that customers can visit the store, Lambright said she has hired a limousine service to ferry them.

"I don't think this event is being handled well at all," she said. "They're leaving too many people in the dark."

Heard said that she and her staff are trying their best to make sure that business owners and downtown residents don't suffer.

"Obviously, there are still a lot of things that need to be worked out," she said. "We're not going to turn our back on anyone."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@tampabay.com.

Brooksville street closings among concerns for first-ever Florida Blueberry Festival 04/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 8:20pm]
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