A revival of Eureka's film festival was one of several new festivals suggested during Wednesday's workshop of the City Advertising and Promotion Commission (CAPC). According to CAPC Executive Director Mike Maloney, the local festival has always been popular, and he suggested the Eureka Spring film festival might be coordinated with other state festivals to create a state film festival "season," if the city could find a particular niche for their particular film festival -- short films, for instance. "At one point we had a digital film festival, when that was a cutting edge thing," he said. "That would no longer be the case, but we should find out own niche, just as Hot Springs, Fayetteville, and Branson have their various niche film festivals."
The workshop started with a debate over spam. Although a major part of the CAPC's job is to spread the word about the vacation opportunities here in Eureka, there are stringent laws in place to prevent anyone sending out large volumes of email all at once -- spam, in other words.
According to CAPC Chair Charles Ragsdell and CAPC Sales Director Karen Pryor, the CAPC spends a great deal of time and energy gathering contact information from travel shows which can then be used locally to attract visitors. The only issue is the limitations placed on spam traffic, and the concern some potential customers might actually be driven away by the volume of email traffic they receive from various Eurekan lodging facilities and other businesses.
As a result, the CAPC's big concern with the issue is to try to help link appropriate groups with appropriate local vendors. "We need to know if a particular motel has parking space available to accommodate a big bus, for example," said Commissioner James DeVito. "If they can't accommodate a group, it would be helpful to know."
They are working on ideas for how to filter the information best and put local vendors in touch with potential visitors without inundating them.
Commissioners have been hard at work gathering information among themselves on their various positions on a large number of issues pertaining to the commission. The Vision 2015 questionnaire is an effort on their part to develop a three-year plan for the CAPC.
"We've had a universally good response from the press and lots of other people for looking ahead," said Maloney. "The fact is that we all have to make a living here, none of us get four month vacations, so we're in that zone where we all have to look at economic development for 12 months ahead and longer. We need to be open to the fact the bulk of our work force is directly related to tourism business, so we have to provide for those people out there who still have to work for a living. Strategizing for three years is a little tricky but we need to do it."
According to Maloney, the Eureka Springs Rotary Club has expressed an interest in doing a one-day Oktoberfest next year. "Unfortunately they couldn't find a venue and basically had no boots on the ground for this year," he said. "It's a good idea; they want to use it as a fundraiser for the libraries. It will probably have some life put back into it later."
Commissioners were uniformly enthusiastic about a proposed Eureka Grill Masters event. Both Maloney and Ragsdell suggested affiliating such an event with the Kansas City BBQ society, sanctioned by them if possible. "It would be a great thing to have over a weekend to bring in a crowd," Maloney said. "At this point it's all on paper, but David Blankenship among others has been involved in the past and is interested. It's a whole lot of fun."
Ragsdell agreed a BBQ event it would draw people to town and mentioned that there are cable shows devoted to these events, for example TLC's "BBQ Pitmasters," a reality show devoted to various BBQ contests sanctioned by The Kansas City Barbeque Society and The Memphis Barbecue Network .
Maloney reiterated the core mission of the CAPC. "Our festivals should be designed to bring people into the community regionally," he said. Pub crawls are great, but if it's only to bring locals in, we really haven't fulfilled our mission."
Speculating on a recent downturn in business, DeVito said he thought people took their vacations early this year. "It's not the heat," he said. "They came during some pretty hot weather in July. I think it's probably a mixture of gas prices, the perceived economic crisis, traditional vacationers going later than normal. Business is usually good through mid-August, but it's definitely declined a couple weeks earlier this year. People rushed out in June because gas was cheap, but school starts on the 20th, so the last couple weeks are pretty dead."
In closing, Ragsdell summarized his feelings about the CAPC and its current incarnation. "The bottom line now versus when I came in '07 is that the CAPC is in the best shape we've been in, advertising and promoting the city, supporting the arts and keeping the Aud alive better than anytime since 2007 or even further back. I paid a lot of attention to Eureka Springs in '69 and again in the late '90s. We are now dedicating a lot of the budget for advertising as opposed to putting on shows at the Aud that were loss leaders. I think we're doing a good job."