WEEKI WACHEE — Back in 2009, Hernando County Parks and Recreation staffers came up with a plan never before tried by the department: an outdoor festival where the focus was simply to bring a laid-back, sun-drenched day of live reggae and Caribbean-style music and fun to the county's scenic Linda Pedersen Park.
While the initial request to sell beer and wine was heavily scrutinized by those who didn't like the idea of skirting the county's ban on alcohol in parks, permission to do so allowed the event to return a tidy profit back to the county.
Fast forward to 2013 and you'll find that Reggae Sunfest has come into its own. The fifth annual event, which kicks off at noon Saturday and runs until 9 p.m., has become a must-do activity that attracts a wide range of music fans.
But perhaps more than that, the event has gotten better each year, said recreation events coordinator Christie Williams.
"Now that it's established, we've been able to work on improving it every year," Williams said. "The music has gotten better, and we've been able to add more and more activities that people can do while they're there."
Three groups will entertain, each adding its own brand of Caribbean spice to the proceedings.
For fans of Jimmy Buffett, there's the Conch Critters, a tribute group that re-creates the island troubadour's biggest hits, while throwing in some Southern rock and blues for good measure.
The Dickies (Dickie and Melvin Dickenson), who have performed at all of the Reggae Sunfest festivals, are returning to delight the audience with a potpourri of reggae, calypso and steel drum music.
Headlining the event will be Trinity 7. Led by singer Ras Meishak and hailing from the hills of Jamaica, the Tampa group has been around for several years and delivers authentic, roots reggae in the style of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh.
In addition to music, the festival will feature food and craft vendors, plus a host of children's activities.
Patrons wishing to purchase alcohol will have to show proper photo ID to obtain a wristband signifying that they're of legal drinking age. While patrons cannot bring alcohol into the park, they are encouraged to bring pop-up chairs, sunscreen and insect repellent.
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.