The popular Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Festival, along with several nonprofit organizations, will finally have a permanent event venue at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.
A groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 15 marked the beginning of construction for a 14-acre community venue site, at 5040 Airport Road.
Once complete, the site will include a 20-by-40 stage and 50 vendor spaces equipped with water and electricity, along with additional space for free-standing vendors, business expos and children’s activities.
The venue is situated north of the Zephyrhills’ City Yard, stretching to Airport Road and backing up the southern boundary of the Lincoln Heights subdivision.
Its location will be able to accommodate up to 15,000 guests at a time, and will provide easy access and parking along South Avenue.
The $60,000 venue, owned and operated by the city of Zephyrhills, is expected to be complete in time for the seventh annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ and Blues Festival set for Jan. 21.
Nearly a year ago, The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce proposed the concept for a local festival grounds after the organization determined a larger site was needed to house Pigz in Z’Hills.
The tract of land the chamber had been using for the festival was about 2.5 acres.
“We kind of got to a point where we grew so much, that it was really impossible to every year set up a whole venue,” Melonie Monson, chamber director, said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “This is going to make it (possible) to grow where we want to grow…and it won’t take all week of putting stuff together.”
Officials say the permanent venue will help the annual shindig run smoother, creating a better layout for musicians, vendors and attendees.
Moreover, the permanent site will help cut down on variable expenses, including the annual costs to rent a stage and generators, which officials say can total nearly $10,000.
“The only way for this event to go forward was to find a permanent venue,” Monson said.
Chamber officials say Pigz in Z’Hills has created an economic impact of more than $1.3 million for Zephyrhills. Out of the 30,000 total attendees the past six years, more than half have come from outside the region and state.
“Somewhere in the last few years, Pigz in Z’Hills stopped just belonging to the chamber and now belongs to the community,” Monson said. “With that, this new building will reaffirm the strength of the partnership that we have with the city and community.”
In addition to the chamber, several organizations have expressed interest in using the event site, including the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills, Thomas Promise Foundation, Ride for Hospice and Paulie Palooza.
Once in operation, nonprofit organizations wanting to use the venue will pay a fee to cover the cost of site maintenance and staffing, which will be performed by the city.
“This is truly a community effort,” said Bob Winters, of the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills. “It’s an outstanding opportunity for the nonprofits of Zephyrhills to make a showing, and kick money back into the community.”
Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield said the venue will be used “for generations to come.
“We’re going to enjoy this venue today and the days ahead, but it’s something for our children and grandchildren,” Whitfield said. “We’re always about trying to do things for our community and our citizens, always with an eye on the future.”
Events are expected to be limited to daytime festivals in order to prevent stage noise in the residential area behind the venue, although the stage will be designed to direct music towards the airport.
The new venue also paves the way for the return of the Celtic Festival and Highland Games to Zephyrhills; the festival’s immense popularity forced it to vacate its venue at Zephyr Park in 2011.
Published August 24, 2016