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Peanut Festival not out of the money yet

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Williston Peanut Festival is not entirely out of the running for a Tourism Development Council advertising grant.

Carol McQueen, executive director of the Levy County Visitor Center, told the Levy County Commission in its Tuesday meeting that although the Tourism Development Council denied an advertising grant to the Peanut Festival, she is working with the Wiliston Chamber of Commerce to work things out.

The discussion of the festival came about when McQueen asked the commission to approve the advertising grants for the next cycle of festivals. The TDC’s grants total $20,000.

The commission approved the following grants:

Cedar Key Aquaculture Association received $2,000 for Clamerica 2010, Cedar Key Chamber received $5,000 for the Old Florida Celebration of the Arts 2010, Fanning Springs Chamber of Commerce received $500 for the 21st Annual Festival of Lights 2009, The Humane Society of Levy County received $5,000 for the 2010 Bark ‘n’ Purr concert, The Levy County Association of Retarded Citizens received $2,500 for the 2010 Wild Hog Canoe & Kayak Race, and the Levy County Fair Association received $5,000 for its April 2010 event.

The TDC denied the funds to the Williston Peanut Festival because a budget was not submitted.

But McQueen said the Chamber officials have said they submitted the budget and she is working with them to find a solution. “We’re still negotiating with the Williston Chamber,” she said.

“I may still bring it back up to you,” she told the commissioners.

The tourism grant money is used by the Chamber to advertise the event that has been estimated to bring in as many as 8,000 visitors.

McQueen said all of the grants are used for advertising the events outside of the county to bring “heads into beds” tourists who will stay overnight in transient and short-term lodging.

Those guests who pay a 2 percent tax when they stay at hotels, motels, RV parks and other rental places with a six-month limit on occupancy fund the grants.

The state Department of Revenue reports show the county has collected $149,311 in the past 12 months, down from $169,644 the year.

The county only charges 2 percent although it could collect as much as 5 cents on every dollar paid by the guests. The tax is collected by the lodging operators and billed to the customer. The Visitor Bureau is funded by the tax, so about $89,000 comes off the top for administration and the rest is used for advertising and promotion of events in Levy County that will draw tourists.