After months of discussions and planning, the popular Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Festival will have a permanent home.
The Zephyrhills City Council voted on March 14 to contribute $30,000 to build a new 14-acre event venue for use by nonprofit organizations at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, 5040 Airport Road in Zephyrhills.
The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce helped raise an additional $30,000 to help cover the costs for the nearly $60,000 project.
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. It will feature a 20-by-40-foot stage, along with 48 vendor spaces equipped with water and electricity. Additionally, there will be an office, and enough space for freestanding vendors, business expos and children’s activities.
The property will be owned by the City of Zephyrhills, which will provide ongoing funds for site maintenance and staffing. To offset those costs, the city will likely create rental agreements for event hosts.
About six months ago, the idea for a permanent venue was proposed by the chamber of commerce after determining 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.
The new venue will be able to accommodate up to 15,000 guests at a time, and will provide easy access and parking along South Avenue.
Chamber director Melonie Monson said the new venue is “an exciting step for our city.”
Monson noted: “This venue will help to improve our area aesthetically along with benefitting our community economically, and what will showcase the city.”
Zephyrhills City Council members concurred, with the passage of the matching donation.
“I believe it will benefit the city as a whole, financially,” said councilman Charles E. Proctor. “It’s a small price for us to donate…that we will recoup in the long-run.”
“This is what Zephyrhills is all about. This is what we do in the community,” added council president Ken Burgess, regarding the hosting of community-wide events in Zephyrhills.
Monson, who presented the venue plan in front of the council, didn’t expect an approval this quickly.
“I’m so excited,” the chamber director said.
“We were going (to the council meeting) for more information, so we are thrilled that we’re ready to go forward with this, and they’re serious about it,” Monson added.
The new venue should be complete in time for the seventh annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest, slated for Jan. 21.
“That’s been the whole thing of why we pushed it so fast. We need it for next January,” Monson said about the construction of a permanent venue. “We start advertising in a couple of months, so we had to know whether this was going to fly or not.”
Monson pointed out that Zephyrhills was “in jeopardy” of losing the festival because of the amount of resources required to build a venue from scratch, which can total up to $10,000 each year.
Also, a significant portion of the old venue would be set up each year by volunteer Darrell Pennington.
“Darrell has done all the legwork, and he can’t go out there for a week, and literally for seven days be awake,” Monson said. “Physically, he can’t do it anymore, and we can’t ask him to keep constantly doing that.”
Pennington is pleased with new 14-acre location, especially because of its capability to better handle a large crowd.
“This past year, the band crowd has really grown. It’s become very popular, and it encroached on the vendors…and, that’s why it’s important that we get this new location with much more room,” he said.
According to Monson, ‘Pigz in Z’Hills’ has created an economic impact of over $1.3 million for Zephyrhills. Out of the 30,000 total attendees the past six years, over half have come from both outside the region and state, she said.
In addition to ‘Pigz in Z’Hills,’ the new venue expects to host other events for the Thomas Promise Foundation, Ride for Hospice and Paulie Palooza.
The permanent location may also open up opportunities to bring back the once-ballyhooed Zephyrhills Celtic Festival, and possibly a hot air balloon festival.
One potential issue raised during the council meeting was the amount of noise that may be created, since the venue will be near a residential area.
To counteract that issue, events will be limited to the daytime. Furthermore, the stage will have a sound barrier, directing the sound of music toward the airport, as opposed to the residential area.
Published March 23, 2016