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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Winter Haven CommunityFest Made Grand Return Last Saturday

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Winter Haven CommunityFest Made Grand Return Last Saturday

by James Coulter

Rhonda Todd participates with the Greater League of Winter Haven and Keep Winter Haven Clean and Beautiful. Last Saturday, she attended with both organizations at the city’s annual CommunityFest. Both vendors offered children’s activities like arts and crafts and coloring pages. Not only did these activities provide children with fun, but with an opportunity to share what they love about their local community.

Todd also used the opportunity to share her organization’s mobile food pantry, which will be hosted on October 16. To help promote the event, she offered recipes for children to take home. Being able to provide a good time while also providing for her local community is what she loved most at this year’s CommunityFest, which was her first time.

“I think the turnout has been really good,” she said. “Everybody has been excited to be out, and it is nice to see so many different vendors out.”

Todd attributed the event’s overall success to people’s desire to step out and do something after a year-and-a-half-long pandemic. They no longer want to stay inside. Instead, they want to go out and have fun with others, she explained.

“People are ready to be social again, and to see their neighbors and friends,” she said. “The whole event speaks for itself. They are ready to get out and enjoy the community, and it is perfect Chamber of Commerce weather. And the Chamber that put on the event did a really great job promoting it and I think that has been the key to a successful event.”

After being postponed earlier this year, the Winter Haven CommunityFest made a grand return last Saturday in Downtown Central Park. Several dozen vendors from local businesses and organizations set up to offer food, drink, games, and arts and crafts, as well as to promote their services. There were also plenty of costumed characters like Wonder Woman and Cinderella from Dreams Come True Entertainment.

For the past seven years, the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce has been hosting the free outdoor event to help bring the community together. With overall good weather and people wanting to venture out safely during these uncertain times, this year’s event managed to receive an exceptional turnout.

Citizens Bank and Trust have been a primary sponsor since the event’s inception. Bond Clinic has also been a major participant since the very beginning. Having been around for 73 years with nine locations throughout the county, Bond Clinic remains true to its roots by giving back to the community that allowed it to thrive for so many years.

Ashley Conrad Scanlan, Public Relations Manager for Bond Clinic, loves participating in the event with her fellow sponsors and other local businesses. The sheer turnout that afternoon, especially during these uncertain times, showed how much the local community is willing to support each other and have fun doing so.

“It is very apparent, as I look around, that our community has missed events like this with the pandemic going on,” she said.”It is the best turnout I have ever seen. It has expanded over all three sections of the park this year. I think that the Chamber has done a great job. We are thrilled to be here. Even many of our doctors have been out here this morning.”

Garden Grove Church was one of the many local churches and faith-based organizations attending that afternoon. Not only did they offer balloons and coloring sheets to local children, but they also promoted their upcoming Break Your Fall festival to be hosted in November. After being prevented from hosting the event last year, they highly anticipate bringing it back.

Pastor Frank and his wife, Sheri, have lived in Winter Haven for 16 years. They have been participating in CommunityFest forthree years. After such a long hiatus due to these uncertain times, he appreciated attending this year’s event with his fellow church members and other local churchgoers.

“It is really nice being able to see everybody you know,” he said. “We just love these people. All these people, we like them. We love them. We love this city…We are glad that we can do it, and we are out here with other churches, and we are touching people’s lives.”

Winter Haven CommunityFest has been hosted for the past seven years by the Winter Haven Chamber. Initially, this year’s event was scheduled for March, but was postponed until last Saturday due to these uncertain times. To ensure public health and safety, social distancing and masks were highly recommended.

“The turnout is huge, and it started right around 11,” said Katie Worthington Decker, Chamber President and CEO. I did not expect a lot of people. “We tempered our expectations, but there is a ton of people here. People are eager to get out and about again. People are eager for free things to do with their families.”

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