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Fronting Flapjack Festival no small feat

The event has become so popular it's now being organized by a paid coordinator.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

LAND O'LAKES -- For the first time in the history of the Flapjack Festival, community leaders are looking to a hired coordinator to organize the event.

Doug Hutchinson will be paid for his efforts, but only if the festival makes money.

"We've been growing, and it reached the point where it was too much for our volunteers," said Terry Moses, this year's chairman of the 25-year-old festival. "We realized we needed a designated person, and Doug has been around town a long time and knows a lot of people."

The event began as the Fall Festival. Its name was changed to the Flapjack Festival in 1984. In 1985 it became affiliated with Land O'Lakes Butter Co. Each year the company supplies butter for the flapjacks.

Hutchinson, 51, is a paramedic with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. He and Linda, his wife of 32 years, have lived in Wesley Chapel since 1980. He works a 24-hour shift and then has 48 hours off, so he has free time to work on the festival.

When he heard the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce wanted help and probably would get a promoter, he knew that wouldn't be a good way to go.

"Promoters want 30 to 50 percent of the proceeds," he said.

No one would say what Hutchinson would make except that it is a percentage, but for years the festival has been successful.

Hutchinson has plenty of help to make it successful again this year.

"We have an incredible group of volunteers," he said. "Most of the same people who have been doing it (for years) with experience and success, plus some new people."

He says he's the paper shuffler who spends a lot of time on the phone.

The chamber-sponsored festival will kick off this year with a Halloween party for kids on Oct. 31. From 6 to 10 p.m. the midway rides will be open and there will be food for sale and treats for the kids.

"This is our big new thing this year," Hutchinson said.

The four-day event will end Nov. 3 and will feature plenty of activities, including the ever popular free pancakes, coffee and juice for all visitors on the morning of Nov. 2.

Admission to the festival is free, though there is a $3 charge for parking.

Hutchinson said the whole thing was a little overwhelming at first, especially the little details.

"But, I'd call people and they would say, 'Oh yes, so-and-so is doing that,' " he said. "The volunteer spirit of the people is just amazing to me."

Previous coordinators Valerie Miller and Jennifer Bolton left a file full of information to help him along.

"Books of stuff, separated into parking, security and other topics, basically every facet has its own manual," he said.

Because the festival is considered a community event, many clubs and organizations benefit from the profits, including the Land O'Lakes High School Booster Club, Central Pasco schools and local churches. Money is raised through the parking fees, food concessions and sales of tickets for midway rides.

"My motivation has always been to make money for the high school booster club," Hutchinson said, referring to his work with the athletes throughout the years.

Before Hutchinson moved to Pasco County, he lived and worked in the Plant City area. Then he moved to Land O'Lakes. His daughters, Kim, Karen and Angie, went to Land O'Lakes High School.

While living in Land O'Lakes he wrote a sports column in the local weekly newspaper.

After taking on the job for the Flapjack Festival, the first thing he did was develop a time line.

"First came the sponsors," he said. "I got some new ones and dropped others."

He said the midway and the entertainment are the heart of the festival.

Local talent James Taylor Curtis and the Silver Eagle Band will entertain from 8 to 11 p.m. Nov. 2.

"He's been here before and we wanted to get him again," Hutchinson said.

And, another new addition this year, will be the Flapjack Festival Showcase of Bands at 8 p.m. Nov. 1.

Several Land O'Lakes bands will provide music and entertainment.

One of the biggest challenges for the chamber and the flapjack committee in the future will be to find a permanent home in Land O'Lakes for the festival.

"And, if we want it to grow, it has to become a year-round effort," Hutchinson said.

Kathy Dunkley, the executive director of the chamber, is pleased with Hutchinson's efforts.

"He is calm and laid back," she said. "I could drive him crazy. I'm just the opposite."

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