BROOKSVILLE – While the hard numbers won’t be available until the end of the week, Florida Blueberry Festival Coordinator Michael Heard said the third annual event did “extremely well” and brought an estimated 60,000 people to the streets of downtown Brooksville.
“We had a lot of money come in,” Heard said on Tuesday. “From what the vendors and the food concession told us, they did as much business on Saturday as they did the year before in two days.”
Heard said one of the driving forces for the Sunday crowd was Friendly Kia’s giveaway of a three-year lease on a 2014 Kia Soul, which was awarded to Ken Pease. Moving the festival a month earlier from previous years was a successful move, Heard said, as well as “tightening up” the location. Hernando Today previously reported the festival spent about $209,000 on marketing this year, reaching about 24 million people across the country through newspaper, television, radio and magazine ads.
“We changed the whole marketing program,” Heard said. “We targeted the right people.”
Heard said the festival was promoted heavily outside of Hernando County, and she witnessed people coming into Brooksville from Ormond Beach, Sarasota and Clearwater.
“It was amazing the number of people there from different places,” Heard said.
Other events that brought people in were a coloring contest sent to Hernando County students, as well as the monster truck and car shows, arts show and bands such as The Outlaws.
Looking toward 2015, Heard said she hopes to find closer parking for those who use wheelchairs or walkers.
“There were great crowds on both days, very positive, upbeat and the vendors seemed happy,” said Tammy Heon, Tourism Development Coordinator for Hernando County. “It was another successful event and every year it gets better.”
Heon said local hotels had reported at least 325 hotel room nights over the weekend, and that the crowds seemed larger to her than last year.
Heon said she thought overlapping the festival with the Hernando County Fair helped draw crowds, and give out-of-town visitors more options.
“It seemed like so much was going on and everyone was in a good mood,” Heon said, adding she wasn’t hearing complaints from years past, such as the parking prices and downtown hills.
Last year’s festival had a $1.8 million economic impact, and sales revenue increased by more than $311,000, according to a February letter Heard sent to City Council.