Chasco Fiesta future threatened by city budget

Some city leaders want events to pay up

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - Joe Alpine looks back proudly at some of the big country music acts that have played at the Chasco Fiesta, including Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton. He notes that Rascal Flatts wasn't even the headlining act in 2002.

Alpine is President of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce. He helps organizes The Fiesta, a New Port Richey tradition that started in 1922.

"People who were born here remember growing up with the Chasco Fiesta," said Alpine.

The ten-day Spring event in downtown New Port Richey brings in thousands of dollars and also helps several non-profit groups.

But it's also is an expensive event for the city. Officials say it costs them more than $85,000 related to public safety and clean-up.  And with budget cuts needed, City Manager John Schneigher says it may be time for event organizers to start paying the city back.

"We've got concerns about our own bottom line. We've got to figure out a way to balance our budget," said Schneigher.

City leaders are talking about recouping money, not only from the Chasco Fiesta, but from many other events held each year like the Holiday Parade and Bike Fest.

"As the number of these events have grown, so has the cost of providing services by the city to those events," said Schneigher.

Event organizers say they understand the budget issues, but they say these events bring in millions for the city and provides a boost for dozens of downtown businesses.

Michelle Filippou owns Mezza Luna, serving up pizza and italian dishes on Main Street. She depends on the Fiesta's big crowds.

"It's wonderful exposure, it's a great thing for me. I'd be sorry to see it gone because this town would definitely be a ghost town," said Filippou.

City officials say many other cities do not subsidize events, but Alpine says if the City Commission wants the Chasco Fiesta to pay up it would end almost 80 years of tradition.

"We would not be able to hold the Fiesta," said Alpine.

In all, the city says each year it spends more than $180,000 on downtown events. An amount some believe is just too much.

The City Commission will make a decision on the issue before the 2012 budget is finalized this fall.

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