Historic business district

Festival guests make their way toward the businesses on Palm Avenue as the last leg of the festival’s walking tour of the Historic District.

After heated discussion during the Historic and Cultural Preservation Board’s Dec. 5 meeting, the board voted 3-2 for a modified layout for the 2020 Citrus Harvest Festival.

The festival, scheduled for Saturday, March 28, will again be held primarily on Main Street in the Highland Historic District, similar to the 2019 event, but with the historic demonstrators moved to Palm Avenue north of Main.

For many years prior to 2019, the festival was centered at Palm and Main, crossroads of the historic district, with attractions spreading out on both streets and the main stage on Palm at Pacific Street.

This year, the main stage was placed at the eastern end of Main and attractions were pulled from Palm, giving the festival a more linear layout. To accommodate this, the Kiwanis Club Car Show was moved to Main Street west of Palm.

For its past two meetings, the historic board reviewed the changes in an effort to decide whether to continue with the new layout or return to the traditional plan.

During the Oct. 3 meeting, the board asked city staff to collect comments from the businesses in the historic district and survey the participating vendors and clubs on the layout changes.

There were more complaints than praise recorded about the layout, but those complaints were voiced by a minority of the vendors, clubs and businesses polled by city staff.

According to the survey, 38 participants, about 62 percent of those who voiced a preference, said they preferred the 2019 layout while 23, about 37 percent, preferred the previous layout. Twenty-seven participants indicated they did not have a preference.

The businesses in the historic buildings on Palm Avenue were among those that preferred the cross streets layout. Several of the business owners from Palm north of Main indicated that they felt less a part of the festival with the new layout. They reported fewer guests to their businesses and that those who did visit were primarily seeking directions to the main event.

Boardwoman Pamela Bible suggested a compromise of the two layouts by moving the historic demonstrators on Palm so those businesses will again have part of the festival at their storefronts.

Chairman Tony Mauricio wanted to continue the discussion to the next meeting, Jan. 2, in order to give the Kiwanis Club, which organizes the event’s car show, and the business owners an opportunity to comment in person.

Boardman Colin Childs did not want to push the decision to a third meeting and motioned for a vote to approve the modified layout. The layout was approved 3-2 with Childs, Bible and Lewis Cantrell, who was participating in his first meeting, voting in favor of the new layout.

Other festival developments included the cancellation of the ugly dog and photography contests due to low participation and a suggestion by Childs to hold two historic home walking tours simultaneously to facilitate smaller group sizes.

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