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Blueberry festival will get financial help; fair must give more details

BROOKSVILLE — The Florida Blueberry Festival will get a helping hand from the Hernando County Commission for its third annual event April 12-13 in downtown Brooksville.

Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to grant the festival $14,000 for part of closing two state roads downtown. The county also agreed to waive fees for permits, facility use and county vehicle use and to allow alcohol sales.

The festival will also benefit from $5,000 in marketing dollars from the Tourist Development Council.

Cliff Manuel, president of the Brooksville Vision Foundation, told commissioners that last year's festivities brought in a small profit — about $39,000.

Hernando County Fair organizers got a more lukewarm reaction Tuesday to their request for $20,000 to help market this year's fair and for a $10,000 waiver of dumping fees.

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said that, given the size of the request, he wanted to see more details of what the Hernando County Fair Association plans to do with the money.

Commissioner Nick Nicholson, whose former wife, Sandra, has been affiliated with the fair for years, urged the commission to be equitable in dealing with funding requests. If one group that brings visitors to the county gets its request approved, then others should be approved, he said.

"We're not here to subsidize nonpublic endeavors with public money,'' Commissioner Diane Rowden said.

She suggested instead some sort of formal public-private agreement.

Rowden also expressed concerns about the fair association's financial information, including monetary losses and the fact that the group had set aside no money for replacement of equipment.

Sandra Nicholson, past president of the fair association, said the fair would be grateful for any help it could get and the dumping fee waiver.

"We're not asking for the moon,'' she said.

Commissioners agreed to have fair association officials meet with tourism and other county officials to prepare a more detailed request for the board to consider.

The county fair will run April 4-12.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Last year, the Florida Blueberry Festival in downtown Brooksville showed a profit of $39,000. An incorrect figure appeared in an article published Wednesday.

Blueberry festival will get financial help; fair must give more details 01/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 31, 2014 12:06pm]
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