When the Bandshell Bash concert series kicked off in February 2005, it was music to the ears of residents and merchants who had longed for an event that would stimulate downtown Brooksville culturally and economically. More than three years later, the Hernando County Fine Arts Council has established the free public performance as a bona fide entertainment option.
But, as is the circumstance with so many things these days, lack of funding is threatening the continued existence of the Bandshell Bash, held the second Saturday of each month at the county-owned outdoor venue from which it takes its name on E Fort Dade Avenue.
After earning a $48,000 grant from the state Division of Cultural Affairs two years ago, the roughly $2,500 monthly cost of staging a concert is depleting the fund. Without more financial sponsorship from businesses, or cutting back on the quality of the bands, this could be the last year the Fine Arts Council can foot the bill.
That would be a shame, because this is an event worth saving. The Florida Redevelopment Association thinks so, too, having featured the Bandshell Bash as a good example of how cultural arts can have a positive economic impact on communities.
Although many of those who attend the concerts are loyal locals who appreciate the talent and the convenience of having a family-friendly event nearby, the Bandshell Bash also draws visitors from the metropolitan Tampa Bay area. That is especially true when the bands that perform here hail from there. Also, the number of vendors at the event has increased significantly since the concerts began in 2005, and some business owners are still extending their hours to accommodate shopping before the music begins.
The Bandshell Bash is one of several promising attempts to inspire cultural and retail interest in downtown Brooksville. The Treasure Hunt, which is a scavenger-type contest, is held the first Wednesday of each month. Several businesses, including restaurants and specialty stores, stay open later that night to inspire after-dark interest in downtown, while offering entertainment that ranges from book signings, to acting, to culinary curiosities.
These efforts may not be the dawn of a cultural renaissance in downtown Brooksville, but they are a reasonable yardstick with which to measure residents' interest in expanding their free-time activities, especially those that are inexpensive or, as in the case of the Bandshell Bash, free.
But there is little doubt that the long-term economic success of downtown is tied directly to its ability to offer residents convenient leisure diversions, and that includes the cultural arts.