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HomeBusiness & CommunityThe local tourism grant program doubles its budget

The local tourism grant program doubles its budget

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Planning a special event in Hernando County? The Hernando County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau are offering designated funding to local organizations that wish to promote their fun, educational, and beneficial happenings. The Special Event Marketing Grant Funding application period for FY 2024 is now open! The TDC has announced that this program’s grant funding budget has been doubled for this year.

“We’re hoping to encourage the development of new events in the community as well as help existing events grow and expand,” noted Roger King, chairman of the TDC and owner of The Dolan House B&B in Brooksville.

The purpose of the Hernando County Local Special Event Marketing Grant Funding Program is to lend a helping hand to area organizations and facilitate the marketing of those exciting events that promote Hernando County as a tourist destination. Funds received must be applied to those expenditures associated with marketing and promoting the event to visitors and guests outside the county. This program is administered through the Hernando County Tourist Development Council (HCTDC) and Florida’s Adventure Coast Visitors Bureau. Visit FloridasAdventureCoast.com or call 352.754.4405 for more information.

Interested applicants must submit a completed application with a detailed marketing plan. “It’s easier than ever to apply for a Tourism Marketing Grant,” noted Tammy Heon, Manager of Tourism Development. “We’ve really simplified the application process with an online application and the elimination of oral presentations. A great idea with a solid marketing plan is all it takes.”

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Grant applications for the FY 2023–2024 year must be received by Friday, September 8, 2023. The TDC will review applications at the September TDC Meeting, after which it will submit funding recommendations to the BOCC for review and approval in October. By October 27, 2023, all grant recipients will have received notification.

Heon takes great pride in the grant funding program, which has an extensive history here in Hernando. “The Grant Funding Program was in place when I arrived some 12 years ago. It has a long history of helping launch and support some of our most long-running and successful events,” she said. “Previous grant recipients include Art in the Park, the Brooksville Native American Festival, the Brooksville Blueberry Festival, Main Street Brooksville, The Arc, and Hernando Past.”

Heon is also pleased that this year’s grant program offers more in the way of financial support for local event organizers. “We have doubled our budget from $25,000 to $50,000 for the coming year,” she said. “We are hopeful that additional funds will encourage organizations that may have a small event in place to consider growing or expanding their event or that organizations that have been thinking about establishing an event will take this opportunity to move forward.”

Yet this particular grant-funding program offers far more than dollars and cents. “In addition to marketing dollars, we offer a tremendous amount of marketing support for grant recipients, including a free, fully produced professional promotional video, exposure in our newsletters and social media programs, and the list goes on,” she said.

Heon reasons that by offering a helping hand to Hernando event hosts, this grant program also seeks to support the community as a whole. “One of the reasons the TDC chose to increase the budget is because of the importance of festivals and special events to our destination and economy,” she said. “Our recently completed Tourism Strategic Plan really highlighted the importance of those events to our overall tourism economy. We have a significant portion of day-trippers and weekend visitors that come here for events and festivals; everyone loves a good time, music, great food, and the opportunity to be outside in the beautiful Florida weather, particularly those wintertime visitors. The Visitors Bureau is not equipped to create or run events, but we can support those organizations that do, and in partnership, we can drive visitation to the area.”

To apply for the Hernando County Local Special Event Marketing Grant Funding Program, visit the link to the grant funding application: https://form.jotform.com/211184253203039
Chief Development Officer of the Arc Nature Coast, Nancy Stubbs, stated that her agency has greatly benefited from this grant funding program.

“The Arc Nature Coast is a non-profit, charitable organization that has been privileged to serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in our community for 50 years,” said Stubbs. “Our annual fundraiser, the Spring Lake Memorial Classic, is held on the Saturday before Memorial Day each year at our Brooksville campus. It’s a destination race, and people from all over come out to participate in Florida’s toughest, most scenic foot race. There is a two-mile fun run or walk, a 5K, and a 10K. For the past several years, we have applied for and received grant funding from Adventure Coast’s Annual Grant Program. This funding has provided us with marketing dollars to promote this event throughout the state. More than half of those who participated in this event this year have participated in the past. Not only do we have participants from all over Florida, but also from Georgia, Texas, and we even had a family of six from Denmark participate this past year! We are proud to have the opportunity to welcome people to our area that might otherwise not realize all the beauty Hernando County has to offer.”
“We are grateful for the support of our community and for the support from this grant opportunity!” said Stubbs.

Jan Knowles, a Hernando historian and tour guide, events coordinator, and fundraiser coordinator for non-profits, is also a big proponent of this program. She shared, “I have worked as a fundraiser as well as an events coordinator for over 30 years in Hernando County for several different non-profit organizations. When I heard about a county organization that made available grants to help fund new events starting out, I started applying. I cannot name all of the events that I was associated with, but there were many for which I wrote TDC grants and received funding. All of the events I have done have been very successful and are still thriving, thanks to the funding received from TDC for advertising; without this help, we could not have afforded that expense. I am still writing TDC grants for projects for non-profits. Actually, this one is for the Historic Hernando Preservation Society with a Driving tour brochure project. There are so many non-profits that have prospered due to this funding opportunity, and that has also made my job easier.”

The Executive Director of Brooksville Main Street, Natalie Kahler, said that Brooksville Main Street had drawn a great deal of support from the grant program. “The TDC grant was massively helpful in spreading the word about the Brooksville Blueberry Festival,” said Kahler. “The type of marketing we were able to do with the grant is beyond our normal reach and was pivotal in making the festival its biggest year ever.”

Allisa Babor, Hernando County Fine Arts Council chair, felt that the Hernando County Local Special Event Marketing Grant Funding Program is a work of art in itself.

“The Hernando County Fine Arts Council is one of many nonprofits in the area that benefit from the TDC grant program,” said Babor. “Art in the Park is our primary fundraiser, and with the help of this grant, we are able to expand our marketing campaign to new areas and explore new avenues while doing so. Beyond the financial assistance, their marketing team is also there to help you move your mission forward and spread the word. I highly recommend that you check out this grant program if you are planning an event in Hernando County.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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