November 28, 2012 11:28:10 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
Festivals throughout Lowndes County are one step closer to receiving funding through the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The committee of three CVB board members presented their recommendations for seven planned festivals Tuesday evening.
CVB board members Mark Castleberry, Bernard Buckhalter, Reesa Lawrence and Harvey Myrick made up the committee. Board member Nadia Dale was also a member of the grant committee, but was unable to attend Tuesday night's meeting.
The grant committee made recommendations on the amount of money the various festivals should receive. The recommendations will be brought before the CVB board for final approval during their next meeting.
Director Nancy Carpenter began the meeting by giving a brief overview of the two categories a festival could qualify under, either a tourism event or quality of life event.
"Each day, the event should draw visitors from greater than 100 miles of Columbus to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores," Carpenter said in describing a tourism event.
A tourism event is eligible for up to $15,000 from the CVB. Twenty-five percent of the awarded funds must be used for advertising to attract visitors outside the Golden Triangle.
The CVB also limits spending for entertainment to 25-percent of the grant amount.
A quality of life event focuses primarily on benefiting people from the Lowndes county area, and these events are eligible for up to $8,000 from the CVB. They are permitted to use the funds for any purpose.
Seven festivals were discussed during Tuesday night's meeting.
Artesia Day, Townsend Festival, Crawford Day, Grilling on the River, Memphis BBQ Invitational, Market Street Festival and Juneteenth which applied for grants as both a quality of life and tourism event.
Artesia Day, which will be held August 1-4, applied for the grant money as a quality of life event.
They received $8,000 in funding from the CVB last year and requested the same amount.
Carpenter recommended the board fund Artesia Day for the entire amount.
Buckhalter made the motion and Myrick made the second. It passed unopposed.
The Townsend Festival, hosted by Supervisor Jeff Smith, is to be held Fourth of July weekend. They also described themselves as a quality of life event.
They received $12,000 last year but since the guidelines on CVB handing out festival money has changed, they are only eligible for $8,000. They requested the full amount.
Carpenter recommended giving the Townsend Festival the $8,000 they requested.
Lawrence made the motion, with Myrick seconding. It passed unopposed.
Crawford Days, another quality of life event, received $4,500 last year. They requested $8,000 for their next event.
Carpenter recommended funding Crawford days at $6,500 but no one made a motion.
Buckhalter made a motion to fund the event at $8,000 but it did not receive a second and was not voted on.
Lawrence then made another motion to fund Crawford Days at $6,500. Myrick seconded. The motion passed with Buckhalter opposing.
Confusion then set in as the Juneteenth Festival was discussed.
Organizer Leroy Brooks, who is also the Lowndes District 1 Supervisor, applied for two grants for his festival, both as quality of life and a tourism event.
Juneteenth received $14,000 from the CVB last year. They requested $8,000 as a quality of life event and $15,000 as a tourism event.
While Carpenter admitted that the festival did qualify as a quality of life event, she felt it could also be considered as a tourism event.
She recommended to grant Juneteenth $14,000. Buckhalter questioned why she did not feel the need to fund them for $15,000 and Carpenter brought up Juneteenth's financials.
On Juneteenth's application, it listed income as $14,000. Itemized expenses totaled $23,900.
On the Tourism application, the income was adjusted to included $15,000 from the CVB and totaled $21,000.
Expenses were listed at $31,650.00
Carpenter was concerned that festival organizers were planning a financial loss.
"If you construct a business plan, you don't have a deficit," she said. "You don't plan to fail."
Confusion then ensued on whether Brooks intended to receive both the $15,000 grant and the $8,000 grant from the CVB.
After several minutes of back and forth among the committee members, Castleberry, who had been sitting quietly, interrupted the group.
"We're playing a game that's been played 1,000 times," he said. "There is no need to recreate the wheel. No disrespect to Leroy and I can't be in Leroy's brain, but obviously he doesn't know what he qualifies for."
After a few more moments of confusion, Myrick made a motion to fund the festival as a tourism event for $15,000 with the stipulation that an economic impact survey be conducted.
Carpenter mentioned that economic impact studies were going to be conducted on all the festivals, not just Juneteenth.
Myrick again motioned to fund Juneteenth $15,000. Lawrence made the second and the motion passed unopposed.
Grilling on the River applied as a tourism event. They requested $10,950. Myrick recused himself since he was previously affiliated with the event.
Carpenter recommended the event receive $10,000 in part because of the numbers of various supporters. Seven different organizations are listed on the group's application to lend financial support, not including the CVB.
Buckhalter made a motion to grant the event $8,000 with Lawrence seconding the motion. It passed unopposed.
A new event, Memphis BBQ Invitational, applied as a tourism event and requested $14,950.
The event will be held March 6-9 at the Columbus Fairgrounds.
The event has been held at prior locations including Olive Branch and Tunica. It will consist of 60 to 75 teams who compete in a barbecue cook-off. They will charge a $10 admission at the gate which grants attendees access to children's activities, entertainment and arts and crafts. The $10 does not include barbecue tasting.
Carpenter recommended funding the event at $10,000.
Lawrence made the motion but it died for lack of a second.
Buckhalter then made a motion to fund the event for $8,000 but it also died for lack of a second.
Obviously frustrated, Carpenter urged members to reconsider funding the event.
"We have very few tourist events," she said.
Lawrence then made the motion to fund the invitational for $9,000. Buckhalter made the second and the event was passed without dissent, with Myrick abstaining.
Market Street Festival was the last event to be considered. The popular festival draws more than 30,000 people to Columbus each year who spend an estimated seven million dollars with local merchants, according to organizers.
They requested funding of $15,000 as a tourism event.
Carpenter recommending funding the event for the full amount. Lawrence made the motion with Buckhalter seconding. It passed unopposed.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah