The sign at the entrance to Princess Place Preserve in the wake of Hurricane Ian said Do Not Enter. David Ayres ignored it, drove in, and his heart sank. The place was flooded. Trees were down. The place needed a lot of cleaning and drying. There was no way he could hold the annual Creekside Festival there. It was scheduled for this weekend, Oct. 8 and 9.
But it still is.
Ayres, president and general manager of Flagler Broadcasting, may be a radio man. But he’s a problem solver. A well connected problem-solver. He happens to be on the advisory board of the Florida Agricultural Museum, around the corner from the preserve (at the corner of U.S. 1 and Old Kings Road North). As he drove out of Princess Place, he drove into the museum’s grounds–an expanse of 53 acres for the museum’s actual grounds and another 237 acres of entirely wooded land.
The museum’s grounds were “high and dry,” Ayres said. Before long, he’d worked it out. That’s where the 2022 Creekside Music & Arts Festival, its 17th edition, will be, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
“We could put the whole thing on right there without disrupting anybody,” he said, noting that the vendors and the musical bands all count on the festival for income. “To have a cancellation hurts everybody.” Instead, the festival this year “could be the biggest one ever. Plus I think people want to get out, do something fun with their families.”
Admission for adults is $10 per person (not per car). Children get in free. Parking is free. Ayres says he’s hiring Parking pros out of Jacksonville to organize the parking, and that the grounds have plenty of room to accommodate all cars. The festival will not interfere with ongoing weddings on the barn side of the museum.
This year’s festival features more arts and crafts than ever before, with nonstop bluegrass and country music both days, racing pigs, the shootout competition featuring Sheriff Rick Staly, Noah’s landing animal experience, a free kids zone, plus a big variety of food–and the 2nd Annual Chili Challenge between the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and Flagler County Fire Rescue. There’s been quite a bit of theatrical trash talk between the two sides over the last few weeks.”I’m going with the fire department this year. Nothing personal,” Joe Mullins, the chairman of the County Commission, said at the last commission meeting as he was spelling out upcoming events. He’s had an unusual share of run-ins with law enforcement this year. “Okay, maybe not.”
“As far as the chili challenge,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in the same meeting, “I just want to comment that we are the reigning winner for the first chili challenge, and chief [Mike] Tucker, your fire chief and I, have been on the radio torturing each other on who’s going to win. And so I would encourage everybody to come out, and it’ll be a great time. And vote for the Sheriff’s Office.”
Last year’s fund-raising from the chili challenge benefited youth programs at the Agricultural Museum.
“You also have an opportunity to support the Florida Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches by trying to out-shoot the sheriff or his wife,” Staly said. “So the ladies get to go against Debbie, and the men get to go against me, and you have to beat my fastest time. I would just warn everybody that Debbie and I are practicing at our range.”
“I think I’d rather shoot against you than Debbie anyway,” the sheriff said.
The Creekside Festival was the creation of the former Flagler Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates, which went out of business two years ago. Before doing so it enabled the festival to live on under new ownership, that of Flagler Broadcasting.
The radio network produced the festival at Creekside, paying between $8,000 and $10,000 for use of the park, and raised $22,500 for Grace Community Food Pantry, the same organization on whose behalf Flagler Broadcasting organized a one-day Food-a-Thon, raising $125,000 for the organization.
“This event is very important not just for the vendors and performers but for the many local charities that benefit from it,” Ayres said.
Since Flagler Broadcasting did the Food-A-Thon for Grace Community Food Pantry earlier this year, the charities benefiting from the Creekside Festival this year will be different: The Flagler Education Foundation will be one (that’s the support organization of the Flagler County school district, which this year is campaigning to win renewal of the district’s half-cent sales surtax) the Free Clinic, and the Flagler Humane Society, which happened to have celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Agricultural Museum just last weekend.
County employees who usually help prepare and run the festival are busy working on county properties, including princess Place, so Flagler Broadcasting will hire its own crews to run the festival.