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Hernando County parks and recreation expands special events plan

BROOKSVILLE — A year ago, Hernando County's first Reggae Sunfest at Linda Pedersen Park had its share of skeptics.

While some praised the parks and recreation department's initiative for trying to launch revenue-generating events, critics worries about county employees selling beer and wine during the event.

Those concerns, it turned out, were overblown. There were no reported problems connected to the sale of alcohol, and the event wound up earning $8,324 in profits. Likewise, the two-day Bluesapalooza event in September went smoothly and had a total revenue of $22,000.

County parks and recreation manager Harry Johnson said last year's successes enabled his department to expand its plans to hold three special events this year.

Already in the works is the Reggae Sunfest, which will run from 2 to 10 p.m. April 17 at Linda Pedersen Park in Hernando Beach. Additionally, another two-day blues festival is slated for September at Anderson Snow Park. The third music event, which is yet to be announced, is tentatively planned for November.

Johnson said last year's events provided a wealth of valuable experience and information that will go a long way toward improving upcoming events.

"Last year, we were rookies," said Johnson. "This year, we have a better idea of what to expect, and we've set out to make them better."

Event coordinator Christie Williams said that she and her staff learned that many patrons were unhappy about the wait between acts. This year's events will have slightly shorter hours in the hope that it will help streamline performance schedules.

"People told us there was too much down time when there wasn't much to do except wait around," Williams said. "We're also looking to better fill in the time while the musicians are setting up."

Williams said that this year's larger budget allows for the hiring of more well-known acts. Headlining Reggae Sunfest will be internationally known reggae/funk artist Henry Turner Jr. and Flavor, who will perform with regional supporting acts the Local Celebrity Band, and the Caribbean Steel Drum group.

Johnson said that approximately 10 county employees have volunteered to help serve the beer and wine at the reggae event. Parks and recreation employees have signed up to help in other areas of the event. Those employees will make up the time worked the day of the event by taking off time the week prior.

As with last year, patrons wanting to purchase beer and wine at the event must buy tickets for a beverage. Ages will be checked, and alcohol will not be sold to anyone appearing intoxicated.

Johnson stressed that the event is not being marketed as a "drinking event" and that no beer and wine advertising will be visible in the park.

"The idea is to provide a fun, enjoyable music event," he said. "That's what people told us they want to attend."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 848-1435.

Hernando County parks and recreation expands special events plan 04/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 2, 2010 9:06pm]
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