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Popularity can create some conflicts

Its many festivals and events have squeezed the city's calendar. A new committee will scrutinize requests, using the mantra: Limit the number but do them well.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

DADE CITY -- The city that began last year with a focus on its outer fringes is starting this year with a new focus on its core downtown.

The interest emerged in January and December when city commissioners were confronted with a schedule packed with downtown festivals and events, and eventually a conflict between a bicycle race and a classic car cruise-in.

Commissioners agreed, downtown has become a popular place, and visitors are attracted to local festivals.

More visitors mean more money in merchants' pockets, more sales tax revenue for the city, higher downtown property values and eventually higher property tax revenues.

But the popularity breeds its own consequences.

To deal with the problem that many cities would envy, commissioners instructed City Manager Doug Drymon to form a committee of merchants, the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Dade City Main Street and city officials. The new committee will be charged with reviewing proposed downtown festivals and road closure requests.

"There's got to be some final say on what can or can't be done," Drymon said, agreeing with commissioners. "It's better to do a certain number of events and do them well."

In the past year, downtown has played host to the Kumquat Festival, Cinqo de Mayo, Christmas in July, Dade Battle of Brilliance bicycle race, Mexican Independence Day, Monster Mash, Christmas Stroll, and the Christmas Magical Night Parade.

In addition, the Pasco County Fair parade trouped through the streets; regular farmers markets have been popular; and a hugely successful monthly car show lures hundreds of classic cars, as well as vendors, to the downtown on the first Saturday of every month.

Already this year, Kumquat Festival organizers added an antique appraisal fair, and Main Street is working with the Dade City Woman's Club to add a spring festival to the crowded calendar.

Last year, the city carried out its goal of expanding city boundaries, and got into a legal fistfight with Pasco County for its troubles.

The city ultimately prevailed in a major annexation of formerly unincorporated county land, but only after a circuit judge bounced a Pasco County lawsuit out of court.

While commissioners haven't withdrawn their stated goal of annexing new land, they are newly interested in downtown again.

"We need to figure out what events we're going to do and what events we can do well," Commissioner Hutch Brock said. "It's a good problem to have, it really is. People like to come to Dade City."

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