Expressing optimism that life soon may return to normal, Sumter County commissioners this week approved $461,100 in tourism grants for events during the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The money comes from the Tourism Development Tax and the grants were recommended by the Sumter County Tourism Council.
The largest grant was $120,000 to The Villages for nightly entertainment on the Lake Sumter and Brownwood town squares. Spanish Springs town square is in Lake County.
The amount was the same as this year, even though town square entertainment has been suspended for five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant was increased by $40,000 last year.
Grants were less than the amounts requested for three shooting competitions sponsored by the Blackjack Sporting Clays. Commissioners approved $35,000 of $75,000 for a fall open event, $45,000 of $90,000 requested for another open event and $15,000 of $25,000 requested for a series event. The money will be used for advertising and promotion.
The Buffalo Scholarship Fund at The Villages Charter School will receive $66,000, a $6,000 increase from this year, for its annual Battle of The Villages, a high school basketball tournament in December.
The Southern Draft Horse Association will receive $50,000 for its horse-pulling contest, a February event that includes 45 teams at The Villages polo fields.
Villages Homeowners Advocates received $37,500 of $50,000 requested for advertising and promotion of its annual country western hoedown, held Jan. 25 this year.
Grants of $10,000 each were awarded for Florida Half Century softball tournaments next May and August. The 66th annual Florida Coach Athletic Association All-Star Classic will receive $26,000, up $6,000 from last year, while a $20,000 grant, up from $15,000 last year, will go for the Florida High School 7×7 Association State Championship.
Other grants include $12,600 for the Sumter tourism web site, $9,000 for the Bushnell Fall Festival on Oct. 17 and $5,000 for the Wildwood Middle School Hoopsgiving Classic basketball tournament, set for Nov. 23-24.