Connerton plans Family Fest

Published April 12, 2007

CONNERTON - Land O'Lakes has the flapjack. Dade City has the kumquat. San Antonio has the rattlesnake. New Port Richey has Chasco.

Now Connerton, the new kid on the block that bills itself as "West Florida's Only New Town," wants in on the action.

The community, which plans to have 8,700 homes and a town center, is starting its own festival, something organizers hope will grow into an annual activity that is as well known as Pasco's other signature events.

"Connerton is a new town and from what we're creating in terms of community as such we would like to generate activities that become traditional," said Stewart Gibbons, president of Connerton.

To that end, the community will put on its first Family Fest this month. The event will feature live music, food and beverages, games, community and circus performances and a special appearance by Spider-Man.

Gibbons said they expect "upward of 500" people to attend the festival.

Of course, the community will also be marketing itself to potential buyers, so its model homes, nature trails and other amenities will be showcased.

Putting on a festival and developing it as a brand that lures folks from other areas is hard work. Just ask organizers of established events nearby.

"God bless them," said Kathy Dunkley, executive director of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce. The organization puts on the annual Flapjack Festival that draws about 40,000 to Land O'Lakes for pancakes, carnival rides, a parade and crafts.

"It's best to start small," said Dunkley, whose group owns its fencing, electrical panels, even grills for the flapjacks.

"It's big business, said Dunkley who starts planning next year's event immediately after each festival ends. The Flapjack Festival is preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Phyllis S. Smith, director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, also has advice for the fledgling community of Connerton.

"Find a niche," she said. For Dade City, the kumquat was a natural fit as that community produces more of the tiny, tangy fruit than anywhere else in the world, she said.

Also, time the event so that it doesn't compete with another one that might draw festivalgoers away.

Dade City took a risk by holding the Kumquat Festival on the same weekend as Tampa's Gasparilla, but it proved to be no problem.

"We attract a different audience," said Smith, who has often noted that Dade City's festival is a family-oriented event. Translation: No one has to bare body parts in exchange for party favors, and the only tartness is found in the taste of the fruit.

Gibbons aims to have Connerton's event attract the same audience as Dade City's signature festival.

"This is for folks who like to have a fun day," he said.

Lisa Buie can be reached at 813 909-4604 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4604. Her e-mail address is buie@sptimes.com.

If you go

Family Fest at Connerton

When: 2-8 p.m. April 28

Where: Connerton is on U.S. 41 about 7.5 miles north of State Road 54.

Cost: Free admission and parking. Food will be sold for a nominal cost.

Contact: (813) 995-2460 or visit www.connerton.com.