The Brooksville Vision Foundation (BVF) is a nonprofit corporation that, according to its mission statement, “... works side by side with local partners to promote and implement positive economic development while preserving the historical and architectural integrity of Brooksville.”
Representatives from the Hernando County Fine Arts Council and the Hernando Growers Association, along with thirteen other people attended a meeting on Tuesday, October 17. They met to discuss ways to enhance downtown Brooksville by bringing new events to the area and continue improving events held in the past.
They discussed the popular Blueberry Festival which will take place in April of next year, as well as a First Friday event that will occur monthly. A charity golf tournament and a cycling race are also planned. Another way that BVF is acting to improve the economy of downtown is encouraging restaurants and stores to stay open on Friday evenings and hold drawings for prizes. The organization is also trying to find activities for the summer months when events typically taper off.
Also on the table for discussion was the Founders’ Week celebration, Market on Main, and a Christmas celebration. There are also plans for a Fourth of July event next year. Cliff Manuel, President of the corporation stated, “Through partnership with the [Brooksville] Main Street Organization we're trying to ramp up the decorative function of Christmas this year. We're offering businesses the opportunity to save a little money by purchasing the decorations through Main Street by not having to pay taxes on what they purchase.”
The purpose of these events is to bring people to the downtown area, benefiting the merchants there and making Hernando County a destination for people from surrounding counties and even from other regions.
Manuel continued, “Brooksville Main Street’s goals are to grow a sense of place and pride in community by working to bring about positive change to the historic fabric of our Historic Downtown Brooksville. Specific goals are to provide four significant events on an annual basis to drive a consistent presence in the downtown area and to ensure proper preservation techniques through well-written design review guidelines.”
The group also discussed the Good Neighbor Gap Trail which is part of a network of trails linking parts of Florida. These trails are funded by the state of Florida and the federal government. The newest portion will traverse Brooksville – something that the BVF worked to ensure.
Sonny Vergara and Paul Shaskan from the Fine Arts Council spoke about their signature event, Art in the Park, and other projects, including several events next July. The council also maintains the beautiful murals that grace a number of buildings in the downtown area and they offer walking tours.
Vergara stated, “We are looking forward to having Brooksville Main Street involved in these events. We are going to generate an economic report to show how the the arts are significant to Hernando County. Most importantly, we want to create an Arts and Cultural Center. We need this to have a place for local artists to showcase and market their art.”
Mike DeFelice, a local farmer, was at the meeting to represent the Hernando Growers Association, an organization that connects local growers with consumers, restaurants and schools to promote healthy living and local produce. They are working toward having a farmers market sometime in the near future. DeFelice presented their plans for Bike Rallies and Cruise-Ins in 2018 that appeal to motorcycle and vintage car enthusiasts.
DeFelice stated, “These events are an excellent opportunity for us to fund our organization and also meets the needs of the city to attract visitors. We are only forty-something miles away from the second largest metropolitan statistical area in the state of Florida – Tampa/St. Petersburg/Orlando combined.”
He pointed out that these events would be a win-win for everyone concerned. Restaurants and stores would benefit from increased business, the county would benefit from increased visibility and visitors would enjoy a day of fun.
It is necessary for the community as a whole to support these various organizations so they can achieve their goals.
“BVF and Brooksville Main Street need cooperation and involvement from both the public and private sectors. Brooksville is a passionate community with deep rooted pride in their people. This is the time to gather together and continue the pride of community that has been inherited by so many who have come before us,” Manuel concluded.