The Indian Summer Festival Committee met on January 3rd, 2008 to discuss the CVB’s options for the 2008 festival. The festival is quite different from other special events receiving CVB financial support in that it is actually owned by the TDC/CVB. The committee is a subcommittee made up of 4 members of the CVB’s Marketing Committee (Kirk Lancaster-chairman, Jack Bishop, Ann Henry, and Joe Kennedy) all of whom were present. The subcommittee will make their recommendation to the Marketing Committee, which will then make their recommendation to the CVB Board.
The meeting was chaired by Lancaster in an open workshop fashion with extensive input from the audience. The audience included CVB Board Members Andy Phillips and Buddy Wilkes. The discussion included:
- The history of the event that originally was operated by a local committee with the support of local charities. More recently the CVB operated it in-house for two years before hiring Sound Associates/Ron Johnson as festival promoter for the past few years. The CVB exercised it’s right to cancel the 2008 contract with Sound Associates.
- The importance of the festival attracting non-residents, rather than just being a local draw, if the CVB continues to provide financial support. There was a clear consensus that the 2007 festival was mainly a local festival that attracted few out-of-area visitors. However, some expressed their belief that tourists rarely travel to any festivals today. Past successful tourist marketing efforts, including the Winn-Dixie program arranged by past president Bob Warren, were also discussed.
- Who should run the festival? President Rowe advised the subcommittee that the CVB lacks sufficient staff to operate the festival in-house.
- What the elements of the festival should be? This included the type of music and whether the festival should seek big-name performers or performers with a lower cost and a corresponding lower admission charge. Also discussed was the appropriate type of food vendors for the festival. Some voiced opinions that the festival had too many carnival-type vendors and not enough local restaurants, while others were of the belief that carnival-type food was an important element. The difficulty of local restaurants operating in a temporary location and the possibility of building permanent vendor facilities to alleviate these problems was also mentioned.
- Whether there was enough support in the tourist industry to make the festival happen? Traditionally, the festival has relied on financial sponsorships from the tourist-oriented businesses; however, some past sponsors have expressed their disappointment over the value being received. The possibility of engaging the tourist industry in marketing discount packages that include lodging, tickets, and other elements was also suggested.
- The date of the event and the importance of considering the dates of other festivals in the southeast. The event was originally held every 2nd weekend of October. Recently it was held on Columbus Day weekend, but this past year it was moved to the following weekend to better fit the schedule of the festival promoter.
- What type of control the CVB should retain over the festival’s elements, operation, and advertising?
Although no formal vote was taken, the consensus of the subcommittee was to turn the matter over to President Rowe to prepare a RFP for distribution to potential festival operators. Rowe plans to distribute a survey to local businesses, to speak with other CVBs, and to review prior RFPs to provide additional assistance. The sub-committee will consider Rowe’s draft RFP at their next meeting that has not yet been scheduled.