By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
January 22, 2015
The Convention and Visitors Advisory Board (CVA) met Wednesday morning to discuss their event budget as well as pending funding requests for events in 2015. Concerns arose as Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Rachel Flores noted that if all of the requests were approved, the events budget would be in the negative and the board would have no money left until the new fiscal year begins in October.
Community members presented requests for funding for events such as the firework shows during the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day, as well as requests for the Sand Castle Summer Series, the Island Folk Festival and Concert Series, and the Run in Texas Sand Crab Run.
Members started discussion with the holiday firework shows because they have served as an anchor event for the City for 24 years. Funding for the fireworks is currently budgeted at $80,000. Three months ago, Clayton Brashear of Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill requested the CVA provide beachside fireworks in addition to the show on the bay. The board considered splitting the amount to have two good shows, but Board members reminded the group that the show was started by Dr. James Stillman, who believed that it was the best firework show in Texas. One member said, “He did it for the smiles on the kids’ faces and the oohs and aahs of the adults.” The City took over the tradition after Stillman’s death and said they wished to continue doing so.
Aarin Hartwell, owner of Hartwell Talent and Production, also came to the board with a funding request in the amount of $38,000 for the Island Folk Festival in September along with a monthly concert series to help promote the event. Hartwell added there would be sister events such as surf contests, art festivals, and workshops to increase attendance and hotel room nights. The requested budget would aid in production costs, in measurement of the event’s success, and also in securing a headlining act to attract a larger crowd. Last year, the CVA funded $7,000 for the event, making use of all the money then available in the budget.
Lucinda Wierenga, also known as Sandy Feet, made a request for $14,000 for Sandcastle Days, which occurs in the summer. She added that the budget for the nearly three decades-long event was cut in half within the last few years. The event would feature 12 contests and free workshops throughout the summer along with a championship event. As she was not prepared to produce numbers of hotel room nights, members were unsure if the event actually brings in visitors. Sandy Feet reminded the board that by law, the Hotel/Motel Tax money can also be used for art, and the Sandcastle Days sculptures can fall under that category.
Finally, a funding request in the amount of $4,000 was requested for the Run in Texas Sand Crab Run in April which is in its sixth year. It has been funded by the CVA for the past two years and has proven to amount to booked room nights with over 500 runners in attendance last year, many of whom filled two night minimum room blocks at La Quinta Inn and Suites and La Copa Inn Beach Hotel.
After the board heard all the presentations, they discussed the events and considered the option of requesting a budget increase from the City Council. With the current budget, the CVA approved the funding for the holiday firework shows to continue in the same location. They felt that all the events were worthwhile, but because the Sand Crab Run in April was a time sensitive matter, the board also approved their $4,000 request. Both the Island Folk Festival and Concert Series as well as the Sandcastle Days Summer Series were tabled until the next meeting to be reviewed further.
With this budget dilemma fresh in their minds, the CVA Board realized that some changes may need to be made on funding application guidelines to streamline the process. The board decided to hold a workshop to set guidelines to simplify funding in the future.
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