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Fishing industry wins 3 grants

Citrus County's abundant fishing grounds, historical resources and a planned hot-air balloon event all won the blessing _ and the cash _ of the Citrus County Tourist Development Council on Wednesday.

The council approved spending $33,000 for marketing those county attributes. The money comes from the county's 3 percent tourist tax on overnight accommodations.

The purpose of providing such seed money for a variety of marketing activities is to draw in more overnight visitors, and therefore more tourist development dollars.

Organizations wishing to receive part of the $50,000 set aside for projects and events sent their applications during the last months of 2004. Wednesday's meeting was designed to allow members of the tourist council to consider those applications and the amounts recommended by their staff and their advertising company, Gold & Associates.

The big winner was the fishing industry; council members agreed to three separate funding projects in that area.

The costliest was a proposal by TV host Joe Espin and local Emmy award-winning filmmaker Phil Courter to produce a DVD featuring the extensive freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities in Citrus County.

Tourist council staff recommended that only $2,500 of the pair's $10,000 proposal be approved. But Espin and Courter said they could not make the production for that amount and would abandon the idea.

So, tourist council members agreed to fund the full $10,000 because they believe fishing is such a big draw. That amount will still not cover the cost of distributing the DVDs, which could run another $10,000.

The council also approved reimbursing the Homosassa Guides Association $8,000 for marketing the area to fishing enthusiasts, and another $5,000 to the Key Training Center to promote an upcoming fishing tournament.

Other recipients were the Citrus County Historical Society, which won $5,000 for marketing upcoming exhibits and heritage tourism; and Team Spirit, serving as an event organizer for the hot-air balloon classic planned as a fundraiser for Central Florida Community College in Lecanto in May.

Another request for funding for marketing _ from the annual Bayfest celebration _ was tabled until organizers could coordinate their efforts with the Crystal River City Council.

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