Brooksville Blueberry Festival tradition lives on, thanks to local businesses

By Kim Leoffler, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 06, 2018, 5:32 PM EST

The Florida Blueberry Festival has been a staple event in Brooksville for the past several years.

  • Blueberry Festival was in jeopardy for 2018
  • Area business owners behind this year's event
  • Free event will be in last weekend of April

The company that runs the festival, though, decided last summer it wasn't going to have the festival in Brooksville anymore.

Now, business owners in the area are working to keep the tradition alive with their own Blueberry Festival.

The festival brought thousands upon thousands of people to the normally quiet downtown Brooksville area each year. More people meant more revenue for businesses in the area.

"A lot of activities that we do in Brooksville draw some people. But there was not one thing, ever, that made a bigger weekend than the Blueberry Festival for our business," said John Lee, owner of Coney Island Drive-Inn.

Lee was disappointed to hear the festival wasn't returning in 2018 and decided to do something about it.

"It seemed to me that someone needed to organize it and keep the continuity, not let it be out of sight, out of mind," he explained.

So for the past few months, Lee has been pouring his own money into creating the Brooksville Blueberry Festival. The free event will be held the last weekend in April. It will be smaller than the old Blueberry Festival but will still have vendors and entertainment and, of course, blueberries that people have enjoyed in the past.

Lee also wants to have vendors at the festival to be based in Brooksville.

"Brooksville showcased for two days in Brooksville just makes sense to me," he explained.

Lee said any profits from the Festival will go to the non-profit he's apart of that specializes in beautifying the city.

Other businesses that have already gotten behind the new Blueberry Festival are excited the event isn't gone for good and hope it will only continue to grow.

"I hope it can get to the popularity of, say, the Kumquat Festival. You know, bring 100,000 people into Brooksville for a day or two. That would be great exposure for Brooksville," said Ethan Hensley, co-owner of Florida Cracker Kitchen.

"We need to engage our community to get behind a project like this. Let's grow it to benefit the city. That's the whole vision for it," Lee added.

Lee hopes to have a total of 80 vendors at the festival this year.