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Columbus tourism agency tightens reins on event funding


Ryan Poe



A leaner, meaner Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau board dissected festival funding Monday, putting a $16,000 grant for the Juneteenth festival on hold after a heated debate. 


Board member Rissa Lawrence pointed out that Juneteenth -- which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought news of the Emancipation Proclamation to Galveston, Texas -- would make a profit of more than $6,200, partly through taxpayers'' money. 


"I can''t imagine, using taxpayers'' money; we want them to make money," Lawrence said. 


"I think we do," replied fellow board member Bernard Buckhalter, who said profitable festivals were growing festivals. 


Still, Board Treasurer Bart Wise said, "That''s a pretty nice income." 


The board voted, with Buckhalter abstaining, to table the grant until the next meeting in September. 


Another festival, Caledonia Days, saw its funding dramatically cut. 


Newly appointed Executive Director Nancy Carpenter recommended the event be funded at $8,000. Festival organizers had requested $14,000. 


The board voted 4-4 on a motion by Wise to give the event $6,000, with Wise, Mark Castleberry, Whirllie Byrd and Nadia Dale voting "yes" and Buckhalter, Lawrence, DeWitt Hicks Jr. and Board Chairman George Swales voting against. 


The board then voted unanimously to give the festival the $8,000 recommended. 


The Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival -- which brought the Jackson State University band, "Sonic Boom of the South," to town in 2010 -- also saw a chunk of its funding sliced away, from the $16,500 requested to $14,500. 


Byrd criticized fellow board members for opposing the predominantly black festival. 


"Everytime you guys come to fund a black event, you guys hoot and haw," she said. 


Meanwhile, the Bass Pro Shop''s Crappie Master''s All-American Tournament Trail, which is expected to boost the local economy by $5.5 million, was funded at $15,000 -- $1,500 less than what it had requested. 


The board also voted, with Wise and Castleberry in opposition, to approve a $4,000 grant -- $1,000 less than requested -- for the Dixie Road Race, a go-cart race, at Propst Park, Sept. 11. 


The Public Relations Association of Mississippi was given a $5,000 grant to hold its conference in Columbus. Buckhalter abstained from that vote, because he wanted to fund the agency the full $6,000 requested.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment tuttie commented at 8/9/2011 5:34:00 PM:

this is typical columbus. too many right-wing individuals who feel things only should only go their way. we need a new board with people who have visions for the good of the city, not their personal way of life. we need people who give all races equal treatments. remember, people who are home owners, shop, work etc. pay taxes too. stop this child like play in columbus and work together for the betterment of the city. we need to grow.


Article Comment letsallgetscrewed commented at 8/9/2011 8:23:00 PM:

Tuttie, you, me, and others who care about what you wrote need to DO SOMETHING! Show up at meetings and ask questions, write letters, "make some waves," as they would probably say.

Did you forget that the Board has proven that they THINK that they are special people and above the common citizens? DO SOMETHING tonight or as soon as you read this. SOMETHING! And urge others to do the same.


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