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Event organizers hope to recoup lost funds with Leon County's Tourism Grant Program

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 18:25:06-04

LEON COUNTY, Fla.(WTXL) — A big money maker in Tallahassee has taken a hit this year.

While festival organizers are planning ahead for next year, changes are coming for the next round of event grants.

ABC 27 visited Tallahassee's Chain of Parks, one place that will hopefully be busy this time next year.

This area is known to be the host of several different events throughout the year, like the Chain of Parks Arts Festivals. Event organizers are now keeping safety at top of mind as we wait until Gov. Ron DeSantis rolls into Phase Three.

From Springtime Tallahassee to Winterfest, pre-pandemic festivals were not only bringing people to Tallahassee, but cash also.

"We've estimated approximately $10 million loss from economic impact," said Kerri Post, Director of Leon County Division of Tourism.

With Word of South, organizers had to cancel just weeks before the event's date.

"All of our publicity money had been spent because we were right at the festival. We lost deposits with artists and others. So we're down over $100,000 at least," said Mark Mustian, President of Word of the South Festival.

Now, groups are looking to make up those funds next year, with some help.

Leon County's event grant program is back open for events taking place from October 1 to September 30, leaving $450,000 up for grabs to organizers.

Typically, events are considered by how many visitors they bring in, and the impact to the community. However, this time competition will be a little stiffer with strict CDC guidelines.

"The other criteria is also going to be the safety plan on how the event organizers are going to be planning for the hygiene and safety not only for the attendees but the participants, the vendors, the volunteers, that's all going to be taken into consideration," said Post.

Post encourages people to get creative on how to make it safe without compromising the experience.

While we're not in Phase Three, which allows large events, Post says they're opening up the grant process now so they can be prepared for when they are allowed.

Mustian says he remains optimistic that outdoor festivals like his will get the opportunity.

"The park is big. We can spread out more than we typically do. It's hard to plan for eventualities that you really don't know what's going to happen but we're trying to be flexible," said Mustian.

Grant applications are due August 25.

Visit Tallahassee will be holding mandatory workshops in the meantime, starting Thursday. At the workshops, people can look into how scores are broken down as they get their plans into place.

Under Governor DeSantis' Phase Two executive order, there aren't any specifications on outdoor events.

The specifications are only in amusement parks and entertainment businesses, where people should be following CDC guidelines and social distancing.

Click here to apply for the grant.