The Show Must Go On

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. (October 11, 2022) – Days after Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on southwest Florida, business owners and nonprofits across Flagler County were preparing for what has become one of the largest annual events for the area, the Creekside Festival.

Traditionally staged at Princess Place Preserve, after the hurricane organizers were presented with what seemed an unsurmountable challenge – the event could not take place at the saturated preserve.

For those who have come to depend on the foot traffic and interaction with the public as part of their marketing and awareness campaigns, David Ayres, president and general manager of Flagler Broadcasting knew he couldn’t let people down by cancelling the event.

Pondering the next steps as he left the preserve he says it hit him.

“I pulled out, took a right turn, drove past the Agricultural Museum and thought, we can make this happen,” he said. “It’s not going to be shady but it’s high and dry.”

Working closely with the museum’s team, even working around a Sunday wedding in the famed Caldwell Dairy Barn, Ayres was able to ensure the show would go on.

But Wait, There’s More

Talking with vendors, exhibitors and sponsors before the event to ensure everyone was set to go, a call to Jeff Evans State Farm co-owner Cindy Kiel-Evans, who was deftly handing both a pet health crisis and flooding to her home with the storm, revealed she had forgotten to change the location information for the arrival of the display fire truck.

A staunch supporter of the fire service, Kiel-Evans has partnered their State Farm agency with the fire department to recognize Fire Prevention Week, providing education to children and parents on the importance of fire safety and homeowner’s insurance, while visiting the kids zone.

“This is what we did last year and it was real successful so we did it again this year,” she said.

Offering to help, Ayres prepared to call and change the location when a new crisis arose.

Traveling from Michigan with their four mini potbelly pigs for the festival, Pam Chase, head swinemaster of Chase’s Racing Pigs, discovered a lack of running water on site at the location, a necessity for the show’s swimming tank the pigs leap across and swim through.

Wondering how he would solve this problem, suddenly all the pieces fell into place. Recruiting the assistance of the fire department he asked if the fire truck could do what it does best, bring water.

“Cindy asks can I do her a favor and call the fire department. I’m thinking, fire truck, hose, water, and I go yes. So I called Joseph and go, do you have water in that fire truck you bring? And he goes, I can. And I go, can you save the life of some pigs and then he goes what? This is like storm recovery to save lives, so we got Kirk to make sure the hose would reach to the pig tanks and Pam said Joseph is the nicest guy, he’s just been super with them. (It’s great) how it all just came together,” he said with awe.

Crisis averted, on Sunday they all had a good laugh about the chaos brought about by Hurricane Ian and how the community came together to make the festival a success.

“It’s been a nice weekend, we’ve had a good turnout,” said Kiel-Evans. “We’ve had a good flow of people and they did a good job of letting people know it was relocated. We were happy about that.”

Throughout the weekend crowds gathered to see Dale Earnhog, Danica Fatback, Justin Tenderloin and Snoop Hoggy-Hogg, race and swim.

“I like the fact that it’s for charity. They don’t make any money and that it all goes to these charities that are well-deserving,” said Chase. “We also like what we do.”

“That guy is such a nice guy. He needs to be on a calendar too because he’s good lookin’,’” she said of Joseph, the firefighter.

“He’s got a real nice smile and he’s just a really nice person. He’s got two kids, and they want to be firemen. They just come and they’re just nice people. I appreciate them coming and filling up for us because we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. Dave saved the day.”

Hot & Busy

Exhibitors were up bright and early Saturday and Sunday tucked under tents with swag to give out and people to talk to. The free giveaways are always a hit and coming prepared, TAG Ventures Real Estate co-owner Kathy Austrino was excited about the number of fans given out with her branding on them.

“It’s fantastic. The event has been wonderful. There have been so many people here yesterday, all super friendly, all had a great time. It’s been a little warm, so I’m running low on fans for them but a great event as always,” she said.

With a cool breeze and a prime spot just down from the stage, she and husband Dom had a great view of the people and the bands.

Lorraine Richardson, an agent with Florida Blue and Florida Healthcare, said she had been worried about the venue change but was pleased with the flow of traffic to the location.

“We’re having a great time. It’s nice weather, the music is awesome and it’s a lot of fun,” said Richardson. “The traffic has been fine. We were a little worried people were going to have a hard time finding us, but it’s been awesome.”

The Name Of the Game 

In addition to pig racing, live music and Noah’s Landing animals, festival goers couldn’t wait to try to out shoot Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly’s time of .813 tenths of a second at the Cracker Cowboy Fast Draw booth. Setting his time early on Saturday, more than $500 was raised in support of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches on Saturday according to Jill Dempsey aka Blue Hawk, one of the fast draw hosts.

“It is wonderful, we are a family-oriented sport and we want to see families out here doing it,” she said. “Cowboy Fast Draw even has a Shoot for the Stars program for youth shooters so that they can earn money for college.”

Both Staly (.813) and wife Debbie (.828) set their fast draw times before taking part in the 2nd Annual Chili Challenge where the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office detention deputies faced off against the Flagler County Fire Rescue team led by Chief Mike Tucker.

“We were the reigning champions last year and we continue to hold that title,” said Staly proudly. “But they have increased their gain. Last year we smeared them, this year we only won by about 14 votes.”

“Our detention services team is the one that’s taken on this challenge every year and they had a great recipe last year because obviously they won. This year they tweaked it a little bit and since the division chief announced to the world what it is, I’ll tell everybody – this time they smoked all the meat ingredients for 10 hours. That was the secret recipe,” he said.

Walking through the festival and even shuttling festival goers around on golf cart, Ayres was pleased with the feedback, and being able to help support the local businesses and charities by holding the event in spite of the challenges.

“We got everybody saying yeah because this is their livelihood,” he said. “(We couldn’t) cancel an event so close, particularly after everybody else had problems with the storm and disasters, and all the charities here in Flagler County counting on it.”

Funds raised will benefit the Flagler County Education Foundation, Flagler Humane Society and the Flagler County Free Clinic.