In an unprecedented move the Franklin County Tourist Development Council (TDC) has given a one-time grant of $10,000 to the Florida Seafood Festival.
Festival President John Solomon requested the funding at the August meeting of the TDC marketing committee, which approved the request. It then came before the TDC board for final approval on Sept. 14, and passed 5-2 with Rex Pennycuff and Beverly Hewitt dissenting.
Solomon said he requested the money because proceeds from last year’s festival were below average.
Less than a week before the 2015 event, the company hired to provide carnival rides backed out of their commitment., and following calls to 66 companies, festival organizers found a concessionaire in Palmetto, South Carolina that agreed to travel to Apalachicola but at a cost of $15,000.
In a normal year, the festival does not pay for the rides and receives a small portion of the earnings, Solomon said. The expense left the board short of funds for this year’s entertainment.
Solomon said the performers, along with rental of lighting and sound equipment, will cost $41,000. “That’s low,” he said. “This year we cut back.”
This year, rides, games and entertainment for youngsters will be provided by Modern Midways of Miami and will include a 60-foot Ferris wheel. For the first time, there will be four days of rides and entertainment, from Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 3 to 6; plus a kick-off to the annual festival of a TDC-sponsored Pokémon Go event in Apalachicola from 1 to 3 p.m. on Nov. 3, with prizes for the most successful players.
Solomon said he is very appreciative of the TDC funding. “We’ve never asked for help before and we won’t do it again,” he said.
TDC Executive Director Curt Blair said he felt good about the grant and thought it was appropriate for the TDC to develop more of a relationship with the festival, the county’s largest event of the year, attracting upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 visitors.
Solomon said he is distributing to all local hotels coupons for $5 off rides on Thursday, when the gate will open at 6 p.m. and close around 11 p.m.
He said he has 200 $45 tickets for unlimited rides on all four days of the festival, a savings of $55. These tickets are available only at the office of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Solomon said the festival board is still accepting applications for Commodores to sponsor the event. He can be contacted at 370-6602.