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W - Carson Alachua Fest  DSC2555

David Ferman escapes from the steel trap 5 seconds before the sharp metal teeth snapped shut. A former contestant on Americas Got Talent, Ferman presently lives in Gainesville. (Today photo/RAY CARSON)

ALACHUA – Sunday was a perfect day for a festival, a blue sky with white billowy clouds, temperature in the 80's and not a rain cloud in sight. Main Street in Alachua was closed down and 150 vendors set up to promote their products, services or expertise.

Since 2003 the Alachua Business League has been hosting two festivals a year to help promote local businesses directly to the public. Originally established to promote local services and help bring additional businesses to Alachua, the League has expanded the festival over the years, diversifying the type of businesses and vendors. They have also included more charitable organizations and general entertainment for both adults and kids.

According to Gary Kocher, President of the league, while the festival has expanded and some vendors come from outside Alachua, they try to limit vendors to small local businesses rather than corporations. “We want to promote local services, the mom and pop type businesses, whether it be services such as contractors and home improvement, health products, food vendors or arts and crafts,” he stated. “We try to promote business-to-business support to help grow the community. We get a lot of return vendors, but have also seen an increase in new vendors and more diversity in the services.”

The Alachua Business League holds the festival in the spring and the fall. This event marked the 28th time they have held the event. But the festival is not just about promoting business, it is also a way to bring the community together with fun activities, a variety of food and entertainment.

For children there are games such as the world’s largest pinball machine, face painting, magic acts and balloon making as well as several organizations with animals for children to interact with.

Music was provided throughout the day on two stages. Most of the musicians are local as well. Some of the acts this year included Tiger Lily, Double Trouble and Southern Burn.

Other entertainment included comedian and extreme stuntman David Ferman, who was a semifinalist on America's Got Talent. Ferman ended his show by being tied in a strait jacket and suspended 10 feet off the ground upside down. He had a timer set to release two steel jaws onto him if he did not get out of the jacket in one minute. He managed to spring free and release his feet with five seconds to spare. There were a number of food vendors for attendees to choose from as well as local farms selling organic produce. There were also a number of charity organizations such as Bikers Against Child Abuse, veterans organizations and animal rescue. The Alachua Police department was also there with two cars decorated for Breast Cancer Awareness and a motorcycle children could sit on.

The Alachua Business League is a nonprofit organization that also sponsors a $2,500 scholarship for a local high school student from Santa Fe High School. The scholarship is awarded to a student that shows strong entrepreneur ability and is interested in starting or promoting a business locally after college.

The League consist of over 75 businesses in the Alachua area. The cost of joining is kept low to help encourage membership. Each business pays $75 a year, which provides a number of services including social media exposure, networking and workshops, as well as a booth at both festivals. For nonmembers, booth fee at the festival is also kept low to encourage participation. All fees go toward festival expenses to help keep the event free to the public. Estimates for this year’s festival was about 7,000 attendees.

“Our goal is to continue to promote business and attract new businesses and attendees by providing a quality local festival,” Koscher said.

The Annual Spring Festival will be held on Sunday April 9, 2017.

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