January 28, 2014 10:51:02 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors on Monday approved full second-half grant installments to Caledonia Days and the Tennessee Williams Tribute & Tour of Victorian Homes.
Organizers of each event will receive the second $4,000 of $8,000 in grant funding provided by the board. Each vote was unanimous among the members in attendance. There was barely a quorum of the nine-member board as members Bernard Buckhalter, Mark Castleberry and Nadia Dale were absent and a ninth post has been vacant since last June. Board president Dewitt Hicks and members Whirllie Byrd, Leon Ellis, Rissa Lawrence and Bart Wise were present. Lawrence abstained from discussion and voting on Caledonia Days because her husband, Bill Lawrence, is the mayor of Caledonia.
Reports state Caledonia days had $30,255 in expenses and a $37,741 income, a $7,485.86 profit. Festival organizers spent 22.5 percent, or $8,495.73, of their budget, on marketing and advertising while utilizing another 22.5 percent on entertainment.
The Tennessee Williams Tribute festival did not experience a profit. The project clearance report for that event lists $26,766.90 in expenses and $23,471.27 in income. More than 67 percent, or $15,904.23, of the event's budget was spent on entertainment, while $5,690.03, or 24 percent of the budget, was spent on advertising.
CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said the amount budgeted for entertainment was "very high," noting that $4,160 was brought in from attendance at TWT events but there were about 2,000 attendees. That reflected each person only paid slightly over $2 when the festival consisted of several events that cost more money, she said.
TWT representative Marthalie Porter noted that several events at the festival are free.
"What we're trying to do is spark more interest in Tennessee Williams' work and also appreciation for it," Porter said. "This is a literary venue. We are probably not ever going to be bringing in the numbers of people or having the hotel stays of a soccer event that brings families...from all over the state. What we do feel is that it is important that there is a celebration of Tennessee Williams being born here and spending his early childhood years here."
Porter added that entertainment for one of the events, "The Moon Lake Party," was more expensive than usual.
"When you divide our costs and expenses, the cost of the play, the distinguished scholars medal luncheon, all that comes under entertainment, so this year it was the most we've ever spent and we would not be able to do that on a yearly basis," Porter said. "We brought in a group of professional musicians and actors who performed... music put to Tennessee Williams and a German poet's poems. This was a very interesting way to present poetry and this was our highest ticket item. It was $11,000 to bring them. We felt like it was well received."
Carpenter commended Porter and the event seeking and receiving additional grant funding outside the CVB to help offset costs before recommending approval of the maximum amount available for the CVB grant's second half.
"We are trying to become more self-sufficient," Porter said, "and we would like to become totally self-sufficient if at all possible."
Monday's meeting marked the last for outgoing CVB board member Leon Ellis, who had served in the post since being appointed by Lowndes County supervisors in 2011 to fill George Swales' term after he resigned.
Supervisors have received applications from five residents and can appoint someone to replace Ellis Feb. 3.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.