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Festival Of Funds

With very limited resources to generate income for its sports programs, the Vernon High School Athletics Booster Club in Vernon, Florida, became proactive by starting a bluegrass festival as a primary fundraiser. The 2nd Annual Orange & Bluegrass Festival this past April 16 tripled the money it made last year by raising $1,200.

Mark Kirk
President, Vernon High School Athletics Booster Club
Vernon, Florida

Our town, which is 32 miles north of Panama City Beach, is so small that we cannot depend on local businesses to help us with fundraising. So we tried to figure out a way to raise money without having our kids hit up the six businesses that we can pull from.

Bonifay, which is within 10 miles of us, has an annual rodeo where they raise a lot of money. Chipley, which is 12 miles away, has a watermelon festival, which is a big thing.

Bluegrass is real big down here on the Florida panhandle, so we thought it was a great idea. It's a way to have a fundraiser without asking people to donate. And the name of the festival is real catchy because our school colors are blue and orange, so it worked out well.

Last year's event was held at our football stadium and was challenged by extremely hot weather as well as other logistical issues. We started to plan early this year, and with the gracious help of the Washington County Tourist Development Council and The Groves RV Retreat in Vernon, which donated use of its facility, we were able to offer a fantastic event, in a cool, beautiful setting.

The Groves RV Park is billed as "The Florida Panhandle's Premier RV Retreat," and consists of 350 pristine acres surrounded by three lakes - Hicks, Lucas and Dunford - and has over two miles of shoreline. There are also lots of oak trees and shaded areas.

The Washington County TDC gave us $3,000 to promote the event and we used the money to hire a local marketing and media relations firm, The Goulding Agency, who built us a website (, developed TV and radio advertising spots, and made up 100 8 x 16 color posters and 1,000 black and white flyers to help generate interest.

Danny Hood, one of our football coaches, has a bluegrass band. And he knows a lot of other bluegrass bands from the area. So he asked them to help us out. We had six bluegrass bands and one gospel band perform at the festival at no cost to us. Our booster club is very small so instead of us doing all of the concessions, we recruited 11 food vendors and 12 arts & crafts vendors to participate.

Admission to the festival was just $5 for adults, with children under 6 admitted at no charge when accompanied by an adult. We made money off of the gate and the vendors, whom we charged a flat fee. We charged the food vendors $50 each because they needed water and electrical hook-ups. And we charged the arts & crafts vendors $25 each.

We also hired a local rental company that set up an inflatable slide and obstacle course for the kids. We charged $5 for kids in fourth grade and up. The younger kids were admitted free with a parent. We kept half of the proceeds.

As the festival grows we will charge more. This year we made $1,200 and tripled our money from a year ago is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.