November 17, 2012 10:56:06 PM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Event organizers seeking grants for festivals taking place January through July of next year will present their proposals Monday to the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau's Board of Trustees.
The new model is part of an overhaul of the board's festival grant guidelines. Five applications were received by the deadline, which was Friday at 4 p.m. The board will vote on funding levels at the December meeting.
"We plan to do the same thing in March and April for festivals that take place in the second part of the year," CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said. "We sent out requests to those who have applied before, and we actually have a new festival that is seeking grant money. We are very excited about that."
Festivals submitted for Monday's grant review are Artesia Days, Juneteenth, Market Street, Crawford Cotton Boll and Memphis BBQ Network's National Invitational Contest.
In August, a festival guidelines committee voted to place festival funding into two categories, quality of life events and tourism events.
"Quality of life events are good for the neighborhood, and they don't have to draw people from a 100-mile radius," Carpenter said. "Any amount of the grant money can be used for entertainment. Only nonprofit groups may apply for these grants."
Quality of life events can be funded up to $8,000, and tourism events can be funded up to $12,000, with a majority vote by the board.
Tourism events, according to the revised guidelines, must be at least a two-day event with a significant economic impact on the area. A quarter of the grant must be spent on advertising and promotion to those who live more than 100 miles from Columbus, and in-kind expenses can count toward the total. A maximum of 25 percent of the grant can be used for entertainment.
Only nonprofit organizations registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State's office, or governmental organizations, may apply for a tourism event grant.
The grant money is distributed in two increments. The first round is given with board approval after the application has been processed. The second round is given after the event has taken place and the board has voted to accept a clearance report from the festival organizer.
The guidelines also state the board's wishes when it comes to cash receipts.
"Cash payments and receipts are not reimbursable," the guidelines state. "This document is mandatory for consideration of future funding and any remaining grant payment. The use of CVB forms is mandatory."
The new guidelines have been met with criticism by some festival organizers, including District 5 Supervisor and Juneteenth organizer Leroy Brooks. Brooks declined to be interviewed for this article.
"I don't know why elected officials fight to retain cash or lack of reporting -- by far they are the most vocal," board member Mark Castleberry said. "Leroy leads that. He can definitely be singled out. He always brings black festival organizers to haggle over this. He's definitely drawing the racial lines. He's also threatened not to support any more of my economic development projects. I think elected officials who appoint members to this board and receive grant money is an ethics question."
Festival grant awards have also become an expensive business for the CVB. Carpenter said the grant budget has increased from $90,000 in 2010 to $130,000 for 2013, even with the previous festival cap of $15,000 that was implemented in 2012.
"We went over budget in 2010 and again in 2011 because of the Legends Concert," Carpenter said. "We were over budget $56,000 in 2011 but only $6,500 in 2012."
Carpenter said she will recommend the board award the second round of funding for the Seventh Avenue Heritage Festival, Artesia Days and Crawford Cotton Boll during Monday's meeting, which begins at 4 p.m