BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County’s tourism office got a bumper crop of requests for financial help this year, and most ended up with an okay from the County Commission earlier this month.
Commissioners approved $22,630 in grants for activities in the upcoming year. Those funds come from the tourist tax raised from visitors who stay overnight in local hotels and vacation rentals.
Of the eight recipients, most are from the Brooksville area with the community’s economic development advocate Brooksville Main Street snagging dollars for three events. Those included $5,000 for Christmas and monthly events, $1,000 for the Women in History initiative and $2,500 for the Good Neighbor Trail Ride.
Brooksville Main Street plans more out-of-county advertising and will track zip codes of guests, according to the narrative on the awards. The group determined that more than half of attendees for the Festival of Trees event were from out of the county.
The Good Neighbor trail event "is designed to bring attention to the completion of the Good Neighbor Trail and our growing bicycle tourism initiatives,'' according to the award. "Downtown businesses are reporting an increase in cyclists since the completion of the trail.''
The Brooksville Blueberry Festival, sponsored by the Brooksville Senior Future Farmers of America Alumni, will receive a $5,000 grant. It had been run for the past two years by John Lee of Coney Island Drive Inn, which took over after the Florida Blueberry Festival and its leader Michael Heard left Brooksville.
“This year is the transition year as the FFA assumes responsibility for the festival,” according to the award narrative. "Maximum funding has been granted to ensure their success. The footprint of the event will expand, allowing for more events and greater economic impact.''
Another popular Brooksville event, the one that generates the most tourist tax dollars of all the grant-sponsored events, Art in the Park, was given a $3,630 award. The show sponsored by the Hernando County Fine Arts Council is that organization’s biggest fundraiser.
The ARC Nature Coast was given a $1,500 grant for its Spring Lake Memorial Classic, an annual running race that serves as a fundraiser for the organization. Fourty-five percent of the participants come from outside Hernando County.
The final two grants awarded this year, $2,000 each, both went to Evans Media for bluegrass events. One is for the Spring Bluegrass Classic and the other for the Florida Bluegrass Classic. The narrative states that both events have been growing in popularity, and each brings with it sold-out camp sites and increased business to local hotels and restaurants.
Two applicants for grants pulled out of the running, a motorcycle festival sponsored by the Hernando County Growers Association and a proposed Jeep course at the Hernando County Fairgrounds, which ran into zoning problems.