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BP grant buys festival, cooking show
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A grant from BP is paying for two promotions of local tourism and the seafood industry.
CLEARWATER – British Petroleum is footing the bill for a three-day food and wine festival, and a cooking show that focuses on local cuisine and Gulf seafood.

Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously agreed Feb. 12 to accept $500,000 in grant money from BP’s Deepwater Horizon economic claims administration. The money is earmarked for promotion and marketing of two programs supporting Gulf tourism and seafood industries.

The programs are designed to “dispel negative Gulf seafood impressions and generate tourism to Pinellas County,” according to D.T. Minich, director of the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“While tourism has rebounded in the two years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, the local seafood industry has not,” Minich said in a report to the Commission. “Despite repeated statements from scientists that Gulf of Mexico seafood is safe to eat, the perception still persists that Gulf seafood is tainted.”

According to Minich’s report, the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund was established by BP and the plaintiff’s steering committee in the Deepwater Horizon economic and property damages settlement resulting from the 2010 oil spill. One of the primary purposes of the promotional fund is to award grants to nonprofit and government entities in support of programs that advertise, market and promote Gulf tourism and the seafood industries.

The CVB submitted a proposal in October 2012 to the Deepwater Horizon economic claims center for two programs – the festival and the cooking show. After reviewing 350 applications, the claims office notified CVB it would receive a $500,000 grant.

The St. Petersburg & Bay Area Food and Wine Festival is a three-day event designed to offer a variety of culinary and wine-focused activities to highlight Gulf seafood and the area’s fine art and music scene.

The cooking show, “Emeril’s Florida,” will be a 30-minute TV show on the Cooking Channel, featuring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. The local segment will be one of six Florida destinations featured in the cooking series, designed to focus on local cuisine and fresh Gulf seafood. The local segment will air three times this year on the Cooking Channel and another three times in 2014.

Pinellas County will receive payment of the grant in four installments of $125,000 each.

Minich told commissioners that work had started on organizing the festival and CVB staff is in talks with the Home Shopping Network as a potential partner to market the destination.

He said a not for profit would be set up to administer the festival.

“All the money from the grant has to be tied to tourism and Gulf seafood,” he said.
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