Heritage Foundation may cut events

July 29, 2013 9:32:07 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


The Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation board will be watching the turnstiles from now on. As it puts together its plans for Fiscal Year 2014, the board will scrutinize events that are not generating enough tourism activity to justify Foundation resources, board president Dewitt Hicks and executive director Nancy Carpenter said during a recent board retreat. 


One event already getting the ax will be the Fall Tour of Historic Homes. The CCHF hosted that event for the first time in 2009, but there's no funding for it in the CCHF's proposed budget for next year. In the current fiscal year, the foundation had set aside $7,100 to fund the event but generated $6,500 in ticket sales. 


"We're going to try to get people in all year long and not over one weekend," Carpenter told board members. "It was a cost that, even though it was not one of the most costly events, it was one that takes a lot of effort and work on our part that night and weekend, so we cut that out." 


Another event that may be held for the last time next year is the Preservation Forum, Hicks said. Last year the event generated $16,000 in revenues, according to the proposed budget for next year, but it took $20,150 to put on -- a loss of $4,150. This year the CCHF plans to spend $17,115 on the event and is projecting that amount to be offset by $7,050 in revenue with $3,000 of that coming from the Billups-Garth Foundation. 


"We had a discussion in executive committee about whether or not some events have seen their day. Among them was Preservation Forum. Antiques are not quite as much in demand today as they were in the past," Hicks said. "It's too late for it this year, but I'm putting it out on the table. Do we need to look at some events and say, 'Let's don't do that anymore?'" 


Catfish in the Alley, also sponsored by the CCHF, will likely remain a regular event but needs to be reconfigured from a budget standpoint, Carpenter said. This could include a local eatery handling catering duties instead of the foundation. A total of $5,000 was spent on the festival this fiscal year, but only $1,800 in T-shirt and ticket sales was recouped. Board members said the revitalization efforts taking place in that area will likely improve participation. 


"We had a travel writer here from Europe and he visited 12 or 13 cities across the state of Mississippi," Carpenter said. "The one item that he wants from Columbus is photographs and work from Catfish in the Alley. This is for an international website and billboard." 


CCHF continues to fund Fireworks on the Water, which is held each Independence Day to honor the military and Columbus Air Force Base, at $50,000 yearly with no revenue coming back in. The Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, which shares members with CCHF but acts as a separate entity, contributed $25,000 to the show. 


"We got out and raised $25,000, so it was not just the CVB paying for it," Carpenter said. "We have an economic impact of $340 million from the base, and this is something I think we need to do for the base." 


CCHF will continue to fund the Double Decker Bus festival with a projected revenue of $3,000 with $10,000 in expenses as well as the Ghosts & Legends event with $2,500 in expenses. 


Pilgrimage, the major event CCHF funds each year, is expected to cost $43,725 to hold with a projected revenue of $55,800. Those numbers this year were $41,200 and $45,800, respectively. 


The board will discuss and approve the budget next month.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.