This Saturday, January 7, the City of Apopka will witness first hand what happens when a community, not heavy-handed government, takes matters into its own hands and organizes all aspects of a faith festival. Big name talent is booked, tickets sales are brisk; food and other vendors are in place; and part of the Festival will be an important discussion of the recently released Apopka Community Task Force on Violence. Even the weather looks like it will cooperate.
How did this come about? Last year, The City of Apopka leaders decided they wanted to put on some kind of Gospel Festival and actually set an item in the budget for this event. Apparently, in what seems to be the modus operandi for this City, staff set to work behind the scenes, almost in a bit of secrecy, working with what appears to be Mayor Joe’s handpicked pastors and church, to get things going on a Gospel Festival. According to the Mayor’s report from the City Commission meeting of October 5th, the pastors from New Destiny Christian Church have a production company that was going to work on the event, from lighting to production, to booking talent for their Festival, and were going to receive $60,000.00 of taxpayer money for their efforts. Typically, putting the cart before the horse, the City laid a lot of ground work for this festival then went to the City Commission meeting on October 5th, expecting rubber stamp approval for the event. But alas, questions were asked, with doubt expressed as to the timing of the Festival, which was originally scheduled for 5 weeks after this motion and vote were expected to sail through. In typical arrogant response to a legitimate question from Commission Dean, CAO Irby responded that this project was in the works for several months, and that staff often has conversations on a daily basis about projects or events that are not brought to council until the timing is right (really Mr Irby?? his response is a topic for another day, though). Not to mention why the Apopka Christian Ministerial Alliance and the South Apopka Ministerial Alliance were not involved in planning and only backhandedly told they could participate too if they wanted. Apparently, the timing was off on this project, because the Council balked and Mayor Joe could not even get his closest ally on the Council to make a motion to vote for the approval. Thus no Gospel Festival..
Enter several prominent leaders in our City, including businessman Rod Love, Pastors Hezekiah Bradford and Darrel Morgan, Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson and Mr. Ray Shackelford. This group realized they had the potential for a true Community and Faith Based Festival and set to work, organizing what will now be held this Saturday, the Apopka Faith, Family and Food Gospel Festival. Obstacles needed to be overcome, such as booking, then paying for the venue, the Apopka Amphitheater. After some legally challenging issues were discussed and resolved, the John Land Community Trust Fund came through with a donation to pay for the vendor and become one of the Event sponsors. Many in our community volunteered many hours of sweat equity, talent and expertise to make this Festival a reality.
Right now, I have no doubt of the success of this Festival, which hopefully will become an annual event. Time and again, it has been the Citizens of Apopka, not it’s heavy handed government leaders that have taken lemons and made the most delicious lemonade. And as we begin 2017 with this Faith Festival, I see much promise that is when the Community comes together, works together to make our City a better place. Do we really need fancy, expensive visioning studies and heavy-handed, cleverly named government programs that offer little except more government spending to keep them going?
2017 will be an exciting year for Apopka, full of promise and growth. And as this Festival shows, it is the Citizens of Apopka that will fulfill that promise and lead that growth, not heavy-handed government that like to operate in a bit of secrecy. Thank you to the organizers of the Apopka Faith, Family and Food Gospel Festival for starting the year out right, and showing the way for the rest of us.