Clewiston Sugar Festival boosts local economy; annual event drives influx of dollars to local businesses throughout Clewiston and Hendry County

This year the Clewiston Sugar Festival celebrates its 30th year. It is a major milestone in the history of the event and while many people look forward to it for months, not all festival-goers are aware of the economic impact of the annual celebration.

According to Hillary Hyslope, executive director of the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce, organizers are estimating that somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 visitors will come to see big-name acts performing locally and enjoy all of the attractions of the family-friendly event. The number represents significant economic potential for Clewiston.

The chamber director points to the direct economic impact of the festival and its visitors to local businesses, including local hotels, which pump money into the local bed tax. Other businesses that see a direct impact from the influx of visitors include local restaurants and retail stores that see a jump in their business from the thousands of people attending the festival.

The festival provides a great opportunity for Clewiston to put its best foot forward and enable visitors to take a closer look at the city while they’re enjoying their stay.

“We hope that people will not only come for our event, but will come back to our area,” said Ms. Hyslope. As one of the biggest advocates for local business, Ms. Hyslope could not be happier with how the Clewiston Sugar Festival is shaping up. “Families can come for the day and enjoy a wide variety of activities without straining their budgets since the music and activities are free,” she added.

The festival has involved a number of local vendors, including Busy Bee Party Rentals, which is presenting the Kids’ Park area this year. Busy Bee is a locally owned business.

It is a welcome trajectory for a celebration that started with humble beginnings in the 1930s. That is when company men and women set out tables to serve barbecue, and crowned a King and Queen of Sugar after a long harvest. In 1986, the Clewiston Merchant Association resurrected the idea and introduced the Clewiston Sugar Festival. Thirty years later, the excitement surrounding this year’s event rivals any other.

Memories of growing up and attending the festival jump to the mind of Judy Sanchez, of U.S. Sugar, who, like many other U.S. Sugar employees, has attended the event since she was a child. Ms. Sanchez points out the importance of the festival to the community, and cites it as a major reason why U.S. Sugar decided to make this year one to remember.

“Certainly the Clewiston Sugar Festival is one of the major events that the local communities, and stores and hotels count on to bring in out-of-town visitors,” remarked Ms. Sanchez. “Keeping the sugar festival going and building it back up into the major festival that it has been in the past was something we thought was vital.”

As a long-term employee of the company, Sanchez said she is proud to see U.S. Sugar jumping back into the festival in such a big way.

“We’re particularly excited about sponsoring the entertainment and bringing Gary Allan, Eric Paslay, and Chase Bryant to the sugar festival,” said Ms. Sanchez. “We think raising the bar and bringing in some top-flight entertainment will make it an even better time for our local residents and visitors from other areas of South Florida. I’m confident the Clewiston Sugar Festival will be sweeter than ever this year.”

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