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Word of South organizers prepare for thousands of visitors

Event has a million-dollar impact on community
Posted at 6:01 PM, Apr 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 18:19:07-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTX) — Festival workers are preparing to welcome thousands of people to a Tallahassee tradition. Organizers said they are hoping Word of South goes on without any issues related to weather or recent book controversies.

As many as 50 volunteers are working to make sure multiple stages are set to showcase artists, authors and musicians. Word of South is back for its eighth year at Cascades Park.

“We’ve planned nine, but 2020 shut one of our years down,” explained Sara Marchessault, the festival’s director. When it comes to costs, Marchessault added, “a really, really outstanding Word of South is in the ballpark of $350,000 to $400,000.” She said that money comes from fund raising, grants and public funding.

The event also has an impact on the surrounding area’s economy. “We get support from the city of Tallahassee based on our impact numbers; the reports that we get show the impact of Word of South is about $1 million a year,” Marchessault added.

People book hotel rooms, eat in restaurants and stay in the area. Midtown Reader is one of the businesses benefiting.

“It’s been terrific,” shared Sally Bradshaw. She owns the book shop. She said they’ve been part of the book selling team the last six years with the festival.

“It gives us exposure, not only to the community, but to authors who may want to come back to Tallahassee.”

It also gives Big Bend artists a chance to showcase their talent to the community.

“This is my second year being involved,” said DJ Demp. He will be supplying musical entertainment during the weekend. “Oh, man, I’m honored,” he said. “The diversity in the festival is like the main thing.”

They’ll have seven stages to choose from including the one at the Adderly Amphitheater.

Organizers said they’re proud to showcase diversity in music, culture and books as some books are challenged across the state of Florida when it comes to education. Despite this, Marchessault said, “I haven’t had any artists say, ‘no thanks. Don’t want to come to Florida.’ We have always worked very hard at Word of South to make sure our lineup represents our community. We have diverse authors. We have diverse musicians.”

All the planning and coordinating can take quite a while. For example, Marchessault said they’ve already started working on securing a Friday night headliner for next year’s festival.