This weekend’s Swamp Fest has actually been two years in the making.
But the organizers weren’t behind schedule.
The event had to skip a year because of renovations underway at Land O’ Lakes Community Park, 5401 Land O’ Lanes Blvd.
That $2.4 million project is now complete and the park is ready for Swamp Fest again, which will be held Oct. 30 through Nov.1.
This year, the festival will be held on new and improved grounds, and the event promises to deliver the kind of fun that has drawn thousands each year since it started in 2009.
“I think it’s just a nicer layout that they’re going to have,” explained Mike Walcott, recreation supervisor for Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. “The access to the facility is much improved.”
The disabled parking area is away from the dirt and grass, and a short walk from the parking lot to the Swamp Fest entrance means a paved area for vendors and less time walking through uneven areas.
Organizer and co-founder Doug Hutchinson is thrilled to bring Swamp Fest back.
“The improvements that they’ve made are fantastic. The park is beautiful,” Hutchinson said. “We’re really excited. We just missed it so much last year.”
They’ll make up for lost time with a full weekend of activities and entertainment. That itinerary includes several music acts with different styles, including Christian rock, classic rock and folk music. Dancers will be on display Sunday, and vendors representing a variety of businesses and groups will be open all weekend.
The midway also makes a return, with rides up and running throughout the event.
While the fun to be had would alone make the event worthwhile, there’s more to it.
A lot more.
The event actually is a fundraiser for various groups and organizations.
The Land O’ Lakes High School Athletic Booster Club hosts Swamp Fest, but funds are distributed across several local schools and clubs.
Various clubs help by selling unlimited-ride arm bands in advance, assist with parking and participate in other activities.
More than $20,000 went back to community organizations as a result of 2013’s Swamp Fest, according to Hutchinson.
So, it isn’t just a good event to attend, Hutchinson said. It’s also an event that does good for the community.
“We’re trying to make Swamp Fest more of a community fair-type event where all kinds of non-profit groups can come in,” he said.
In addition to Land O’ Lakes High School, other participants include Sunlake High School, Pineview Middle School, Denham Oaks Elementary School, Connerton Elementary School and Sanders Memorial Elementary School.
This year the event will feature two contests that are expected to be popular.
Since the festival includes Halloween, a Halloween contest will be held on Oct. 31.
And, the Mr. and Mrs. Swamp Fest pageant, which includes a wide range of ages, will make a return as well.
The event’s website contains the quote “Always in Land O’ Lakes,” and it’s not there for decoration.
As coordinator for the Flapjack Festival years back, Hutchinson saw that event get moved to Dade City and then fade away when it left the community.
He pledges that won’t ever happen with Swamp Fest.
It’s supported by the area and will remain in the area.
“You can’t have a community event if you don’t have it in the community,” Hutchinson said. “It’s got to be Land O’ Lakes, or nothing.”
And Walcott agrees.
“It’s not a state fair or a county fair. It’s a Land O’ Lakes event. It’s for this community,” he said. “Obviously, we get people from all over the county that come to it. But it’s just nice to have something that you can kind of lay claim to, that this is yours.”
Swamp Fest is open Oct. 30 from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m., Oct. 31, from noon until 11 p.m. and Nov. 1 from noon until 6 p.m.
Admission is free and parking is available for a $5 donation.
Midway rides require tickets, which can be purchased individually or as part of an all-you-can-ride package.
Unlimited armbands cost $22 for Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 and $25 on Oct. 31, and can be purchased at the gate.
Pre-sale armbands cost $16, and are available from local businesses and groups.
For a complete list of groups selling armbands and for more information, including pageant applications, visit LoLSwampFest.com.
Published October 28, 2015