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Nativity's Novemberfest moves to weekend before Thanksgiving

BRANDON — Bigger rides, more entertainment options and new dates closer to Thanksgiving are all part of the lineup for this year's Novemberfest, one of the biggest annual events in the Brandon area.

Sponsored by Nativity Catholic Church, Novemberfest is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year from Nov. 20 to 24. Previously, the event, the Brandon community's largest annual event, has run the week before. But event organizers decided to move the dates closer to the Thanksgiving holiday in order to secure the best rides from the midway operator.

"We're bringing in some really new and exciting rides," said Novemberfest chairmanR.J. Brauneker. "For those thrill seekers out there, we'll have some that they haven't seen in awhile and maybe a new ride they might not have ridden on before."

One of those new, prominent rides is the Moonraker, a 70-foot tall giant spinning disc ride that is the only one of its kind in North America.

While event organizers are excited about landing the best rides, they have a degree of concern that moving the event so close to Thanksgiving could hurt attendance.

"We're losing some of our Nativity families who are traveling for the holiday," said Julie Tipton, principal of Nativity Catholic School. "But we're hoping to bring in a new crowd of people who are in town and visiting for Thanksgiving."

The last day of Novemberfest, which coincides with the first day of Thanksgiving break for Hillsborough school students, will be a family fun day aimed at drawing in families who are celebrating the beginning of the holiday vacation.

"Novemberfest is a safe, good environment all the time, but we're really trying to focus Monday on a family fun day," Tipton said. "So we'll have that extra focus on Monday, hopefully with activities and making sure the entertainment is geared more toward younger children."

This year's fun run, which drew more than 200 participants last year, will be a Turkey Trot, in honor of the fall holiday.

The entertainment schedule is already full, Tipton said, and includes the Soul Circus Cowboys and other concerts, along with the fan favorite Novemberfest Idol competition.

"It definitely is an annual event that the whole community looks forward to, whether it's the students who get to participate and ride the rides or the residents who run into their neighbors and friends," said Laura Simpson, president of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. "It gets us out of our daily routine a little bit and has us interact in a fun environment."

Contact Caitlin Johnston at or (813) 661-2443. Follow @cljohnst.