Sumter County chimes in on entertainment at town squares to tune of $80,000

More than half of $386,000 in tourism grants awarded Tuesday by Sumter County commissioners went to Villages-related projects.

The money, collected from hotel room taxes, is used to promote tourism. Criteria for funding includes how an event will affect hotel and motel room use.

In this year’s grants, Villages-related projects received $209,100 while other projects received $176,566.

The largest grant was $80,000 for the county’s share of nightly entertainment on Paddock Square in Brownwood and at Lake Sumter Landing. Spanish Springs Town Square entertainment receives no money because it is not located in Sumter County.

Al Morse dances with the crowd at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square.

An annual country western hoedown sponsored by The Villages Homeowners Advocates received $50,000 while a Battle of the Villages fund-raising event sponsored by the Buffalo Scholarship Fund and Villages Charter School was awarded $55,100.

Other Villages-related grants include $16,000 for the 64th annual Florida Athletic Coach Association All-Star Classic Event sponsored by The Villages High School and $8,000 for a bicycle challenge sponsored by The Villages Regional Hospital Auxiliary Foundation.

Non-Villages grants include $50,000 for a horse pulling competition sponsored by the Southern Draft Horse Association and $24,000, half the requested amount, for a blackjack tournament sponsored by the Blackjack Sporting Clays.

The Sumter County Fair and 4-H Building improvements received $52,250 while $15,287 was allocated for the Sumter County Tourism Development web site.

Other grants include $14,884 for the “How to Do Florida” television show, which will highlight Sumter County attractions; $10,600 for the Bushnell Fall Festival; and $9,545 for a Dade Battlefield reenactment and trade fair.

Two Wildwood applications were denied. A $17,500 request for Baker House capital improvements was rejected because it did not meet the criteria for promoting tourism.

A $12,422 request for Wildwood’s annual Happy Birthday America fireworks display was rejected after more information was requested about how the event will help hotel room use.

Sumter County commissioners followed the funding recommendations of the county Tourism Development Council, chaired by Commissioner Doug Gilpin. The nine-member council currently has four vacant seats.