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Raid gives more than it takes in

The annual Brooksville Raid Festival in January netted the smallest revenues in recent years, but the non-profit committee that sponsors the Civil War re-enactment nonetheless donated more money than it took in from this year's event. According to figures recently released by the Brooksville Raid Festival Inc., the raid earned profits of about $5,262 this year from admission fees, concessions, sponsorships and other sources. Brooksville Raid Festival Inc., composed of local residents and business people, is the primary sponsor of the event, which is one of the biggest Civil War re-enactments in the state.

The organization donated $5,475 to four groups by dipping slightly into a pool of money left over from the previous raid festival. That money had been earmarked for certain expenses that later were found not to be needed.

The Hernando County Chamber of Commerce and the Hernando County Historical Museum Association, as in past years, were the biggest recipients of donations this year, each getting $2,000. The local Boy Scouts of America council received $250 for the use of its 1,400-acre Sand Hill Boy Scout Reservation on State Road 50, where the event was held. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office Explorers Club received $1,225 for providing traffic control for the event.

After the donations, the raid festival committee still has $4,089 left in its accounts from past years' raids. That money will help finance the weekendlong festival next year.

"I think this proves that the allegation that we are hoarding money is ridiculous," said Kathy Vidal, chairwoman of the festival committee this year. "We're keeping only what's needed to put on the event each year."

Ms. Vidal released the raid festival's financial statements to the St. Petersburg Times after a longtime participant in the re-enactment leveled accusations of financial mismanagement at the Brooksville Raid Festival Inc.

Jeff Grzelak, an Orlando Civil War re-enactor who helped organize the first Brooksville Raid 11 years ago, said his unanswered questions about where the event's proceeds were going was one reason he chose not to participate next year.

"These people (the raid festival committee) have been involved with the Brooksville Raid only in the last few years," Grzelak said in an interview last month.

Grzelak, chief of staff of group of Union Army re-enactors, was unavailable for comment Friday.

In explaining the breakdown of donations, Ms. Vidal said the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce was entitled to a large donation because it has been the chief sponsor of the event for the past eight years and because the business group gives office staff and space to organizers each year.

Like the Chamber, the Hernando County Historical Museum Association receives a large amount of the raid revenues because it also donates staff help and other resources, Ms. Vidal said.

An estimated 10,000 spectators showed up at the Brooksville Raid to watch the two re-enactments of a Civil War skirmish that took place near Brooksville on July 9, 1864.

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