Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 10:33 pm
By Christine Broussard firstname.lastname@example.org
Crates of blueberries poured out of the Mill Creek Farm truck throughout the morning during the 24th Texas Blueberry Festival as the farm’s entire inventory vanished before noon.
According to an economic-impact report by Bruce R. Partain, president and CEO of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce, the farm sold “1,000 flats or 9,000 pounds of fresh-picked Nacogdoches County blueberries.”
That total was less than that of previous years because of an unusual freeze in the early days of May that led to unripened berries.
Still, the chamber estimated that roughly 19,000 visitors attended the annual festival, and that 5,510 of those were from outside Nacogdoches.
Almost $600,000 in revenue was generated over the weekend from out-of-town festival visitors, the report shows, which includes all sales outside the festival such as food and gas. Partain said the economic impact to Nacogdoches was about $2 million.
“Some festivals have a gate and use only tickets for sales,” he said. “They could tell you exactly how many transactions were made. We decided to make it wide open, easy and inexpensive for the public to come.”
As the chamber’s signature fundraiser, the festival also markets Nacogdoches each year.
“The festival is good for current and future residents,” Partain said. “It brings people in, starts conversations about Nacogdoches and casts Nacogdoches in a great light.”
From the early-morning hours and into the afternoon, the event offered a full slate of activities, including a Bounce House kids area and pet parade.
“We know from participation that the pet parade animals were having as much fun as the people,” said Kelly Daniel, membership and marketing manager for the chamber. “Four hundred and fifty children enjoyed the bounce park area, and stages were full from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
The Kiwanis Club sold more than 1,400 plates of blueberry pancakes, collecting well over $7,000 in pancake sales.
More than 300 people and 21 dogs participated in the Running of the Blueberries 5K event on Saturday morning. The 2013 festival marked the third year 5K proceeds were donated to the development of the Nacogdoches Dog Park.
“We are still getting final numbers in, but it looks like our 5K profited $7,500 to $8,000 for the dog park, and that puts us approximately $2,000 away from our goal of $21,000 estimated to open the park,” said Kinnie Douglas, program coordinator for Healthy Nacogdoches Coalition.
Daniel noted the importance of festival improvement.
“We would like to improve communicating what our business community does to celebrate the Texas Blueberry Festival before as well as the day of,” she said. “We know so much is going on downtown and with downtown businesses on top of events, but there’s more going on out in the community.”
Organizers began meeting in December 2012 to start plans for the 2014 event, which will mark the 25th anniversary of the Texas Blueberry Festival.
“We look forward to seeing even more community participation, both with sponsorship and volunteer event organizing next year,” Daniel said.
“We may add some new grand events and look forward to another successful blueberry harvest in Nacogdoches County for next year’s festival. We would like to attract maybe some celebrity chefs. We are already working on getting those for the silver anniversary.”