Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville to kick in $25K for Florida Blueberry Festival

BROOKSVILLE — Few would argue the benefits that Brooksville received last year when it served as host to the inaugural Florida Blueberry Festival.

The three-day event, with its array of food booths, arts and craft vendors, and free entertainment, drew thousands of visitors who might not otherwise have ventured into the sleepy downtown business district.

Now, the nonprofit organization that is planning to stage the event again May 4-5 is asking the city to be "all in" when it comes to supporting the festival. The City Council voted 4-0 Monday, with Joe Bernardini absent, to give more than $25,000 in assistance to festival organizers.

That includes $20,000 in cash, $3,500 in fee waivers for fire, police and other city services, and $1,740 for overtime for city administrative workers helping out with the event. In return, the city will be known as the event's co-title sponsor.

Last year's festival was paid for entirely by organizers, and festival chairwoman Michael Heard said she originally intended for her organization to once again pick up the tab. But in speaking to individual council members, she said, she realized there was strong interest in the city being more than just the host for the event.

"Brooksville has always been a major focal point in our marketing efforts," Heard said. "Look at the photos in our ads and brochures and what do you see? Images of downtown Brooksville."

The grant is the largest the council has given to a privately sponsored event in recent memory. Two years ago, council members, in the name of austerity, voted to eliminate fee waivers for parades and festivals. The program was reinstated in October.

City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said Monday that the city is on better financial footing and that the money, which will come from a nonallocated contingency fund, will have little impact come budget time.

Council members agreed that the city's commitment to the event brings many tangible benefits. It's closely associated with Brooksville and helps to build a positive image of the municipality.

"You can't buy that kind of publicity," said Mayor Lara Bradburn. "It sends a message that we're a strong, vibrant community that is doing positive things."

Last year's blueberry festival, which cost more than $564,000 to stage, earned $4,000 in profit after expenses. Heard said that this year's event, which has a budget of about $200,000, will be leaner by design. Gone will be costly amenities like a fleet of shuttle buses to ferry patrons to and from remote parking sites. And the event won't have a kickoff parade.

"We're focusing solely on what will bring people downtown to have a good time," Heard said.

To make a profit, Heard said that she plans to cordon off the downtown festival area with security fencing and charge admission of $5 for adults and $2 for children.

"We did our research, and we found very few objections to charging admission," she said.

Heard said she is seeking other public support as well. She plans to ask the Hernando County Commission next week to help out with the cost of temporarily closing Jefferson and Broad streets during the festival.

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

In other business

The Brooksville City Council on Monday night:

• Voted 4-0 to extend its contract with City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha a year. Norman-Vacha, who is paid $89,336 a year, was hired in 2007. Her contract provides for an annual review and renewal. In her most recent evaluation, council members gave her mostly positive marks.

• Gave the go-ahead to reclassify from agricultural to residential 171 acres on the east side of Brooksville where up to 427 single-family homes could be built. The parcel, owned by Evans Financial Services of Fort Lauderdale, is on the south side of Mondon Hill Road and immediately east of Jasmine Drive, adjacent to the planned Majestic Oaks development.

Brooksville to kick in $25K for Florida Blueberry Festival 03/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 7:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry

    Military

    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  2. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse

    National

    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  3. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  4. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan

    War

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  5. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    His attorney said Jason Jerome Springer, 39, just talked, and there was “no true threat.”