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Friday, Mar 27, 2015

Commissioners approve up to $14,000 for Blueberry Festival


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County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved spending up to $14,000 for the Blueberry Festival in downtown Brooksville, waiving fees up to $500, and allowing the city to reserve public parking for the festival.

The funding will come from the Tourist Development Council, paid for by a tourism tax. Commissioners also unanimously agreed that festival organizers will need to present to the public what “quantifiable financial impact” the festival will have, since it is receiving taxpayer funding.

A resolution to close roads in Brooksville to accommodate the festival was also recently passed by Brooksville City Council.

“I wholeheartedly encourage you to support the Blueberry Festival and their requests,” said Tourism Development Director Tammy Heon. “The national media attention that the Blueberry Festival generated, I cannot buy. I can’t buy Chicago and New York.”

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he did not disagree, but does not want to have a funding discussion again next year.

“If you give your recommendation as manager of tourism, I imagine the board will support it, but you have to be accountable,” Dukes said.

A motion to allow beer and wine in parks during the festival was denied by a vote of 3-2.

The 2013 festival is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 4 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 5, according to the festival’s website, and will cost $5 for those aged 17 and older, $2 for those aged 5-16, and no charge for those age 4 and younger.

“This is a community effort, and volunteers are working diligently trying to get the festival prepared,” said Festival Coordinator Michael Heard. “We’re doing this for the entire community, not just Brooksville but all of Hernando County for economic development.”

Heard said three primary differences from this year’s planned festival are:

The elimination of “blueberry bucks.”

No satellite parking or “blueberry buses.”

No stadium seating in a park setting.

“Last year was a learning curve,” Heard said. “It’s going to be different than any festival they’ve been through – not rope after rope of vendors, but beautiful flower rings – more like a downtown venue than an out-in-the-field type of venue.”

(352) 544-5271

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