Cooter Festival

Inverness’ Cooter Festival will have a new home, at least this year.

City officials will move the 16th annual Cooter Festival to Whispering Pines Park instead of the Inverness downtown area.

The move to the 290-acre park on 1700 Forest Dr. was motivated by many factors, including the growing size of the festival and needing more space in addition to ongoing construction in the downtown area, said Liz Fernley, Inverness’ marketing manager.

The popular three-day festival, which takes place Oct. 25- 27, will feature seven bands, at least 80 vendors, a carnival, and various attractions. And it’s difficult to stage all that in the downtown, especially as the Depot District gets built and the parks are renovated, she said.

“It’s just grown so big and there are variables with the Depot District,” Fernley said. “It’s just too big of a festival to have it confined …to the two parks and Depot District.”

She estimates 10,000-12,000 visitors.

Whispering Pines Park, within walking distance of downtown, has more than 800 parking spaces, most of which are on blacktop, she said. The city also owns land in the immediate area of the park that can also be used for parking. That’s in comparison to only about 200 municipal downtown spaces, in addition to parking along streets and commercial sites.

The city also needed space for RVs, and some equipment, that are utilized by carnival employees, and to provide water and electric hookup for those vehicles.

Fernley said that in years past, the city allowed carnival workers to park near the train station, but that building has since been moved.

The original schedule for the Depot District and the two downtown parks (Liberty and Wallace Brooks) to be completed was late October. City Manager Frank DiGiovanni said while Liberty will be completed on time, Wallace Brooks is about two weeks behind.

“This may be a blessing in disguise,” DiGiovanni said, adding that this was what the city needed to move the event.

“We’ll gauge it to see how it goes,” he said, adding that if it goes well Whispering Pines might be its permanent location.

Whispering Pines Park has already proven itself as a location for large venues, such as the Independence Day Freedom Festival during the 1980s.

The city will also offer shuttle service from Whispering Pines’ parking lots to the festivities, he said. City staff are also reviewing the possibility of offering shuttle service from the park to downtown.

Liberty Park is too small at less than 4.5 acres, he said.

Number of boat slips on lake reduced

In additional Depot District construction news, DiGiovanni said plans for a 40-slip boat dock at Big Lake Henderson is off the table and will be replaced with a modest 10-space dock.

DiGiovanni said that Southwest Water Management District officials asked the city to provide an environmental impact study of the larger dock and that would have taken months to complete. DiGiovanni said 10 slips did not require the study so he reduced the number.

He said that when the 40 were proposed the city didn’t know how much they would be used.

With just 10 slips for mooring, the city can always return to state water regulators later and request permission to build more if there is enough demand for them, and do the impact study, he said.

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Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at or 352-397-5914.

(2) comments


Whispering Pines is walking distance from downtown?


You have to be kidding, just another joke. The stoplight at Hwy 44 and 581 or Forest Drive will only allow five or six cars to move through the light now. The land that they are talking about that the city owns that will be used as off-site parking for this fiasco is in a residential area, where the old gas tank used to rest. Forest Drive is a two-lane road through a residential neighborhood with a 30 mile an hour speed limit. It is not used to be amain thoroughfare for speeding cars after a concert. Just another bad decision from a bunch of carnival barkers we call the city leaders.

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