No city dollars for Blues Festival, CAPC decides

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Eureka Springs Blues Festival will go on as usual in June, but the City Advertising and Promotion Commission won’t be providing any funding for it.

The commission declined to fund the festival at its regular meeting Wednesday, March 8. Director Mike Maloney explained that the event will take place at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for the second consecutive year, with several shows taking place at bars and other venues in city limits. He said the festival should generate around $13,000 in taxes for the city.

Chairman Ken Ketelsen pointed out that there will be food trucks at the event. With the main festival taking place outside city limits, he said, the city won’t receive any tax dollars from the food sold there. Commissioner David Mitchell asked how long the commission has supported the event, and commissioner Terry McClung said he couldn’t remember when the festival hasn’t received CAPC funding.

“It’s out at Turpentine Creek again,” Mitchell said. “So they’re not using The Auditorium.”

Maloney said he has encouraged commissioner Charles Ragsdell, who runs the festival, to have a show in The Auditorium during the weekend.

“That doesn’t mean he’ll do that, but I’ve seriously recommended it,” Maloney said.

Mitchell said the festival has already been advertising.

“It seems they’re duplicating what the CAPC could do. It looks like a lot of money is going towards advertising an event … that takes place at Turpentine Creek,” he said. “They feed at Turpentine Creek, and they don’t use any city facilities.”

Commissioner Bobbie Foster, who owns a downtown restaurant, recalled when the festival was first moved to Turpentine Creek last year, saying many tourists didn’t enjoy the new location.

“From my own experience at the restaurant and talk in town, it really hurt the city business when it moved out to Turpentine Creek,” Foster said. “I also heard from my customers they didn’t like driving out there. I didn’t hear anything favorable about it.”

“That’s a fair assessment,” Maloney said.

Even if the commission declined to fund the festival, McClung said, it could still be promoted on the city’s social media accounts. Maloney said the commission would certainly do that.

“Blues is an integral part of our music structure, and there’s some extremely good blues acts that are not only local and regional but also national,” Maloney said.

McClung said he wouldn’t mind funding the festival if it were taking place within city limits, or even if one big show were being held at The Auditorium.

“If there was a show in The Auditorium, I would feel a whole lot better about funding it,” McClung said.

Mitchell, who had moved to approve the funding for the purpose of discussion, pointed out that the motion didn’t have a second. With nobody seconding it, the motion died on the table.

The commission moved on to hear from Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce director Tammy Thurow about the Antique Auto Festival. Thurow said the Chamber hopes to bring the festival back this year in a big way.

“I had some wonderful people come and offer their assistance…who said, ‘Hey, let’s revamp this. Let’s restructure our festival this year,’ ” Thurow said.

She explained how this restructuring works, saying the festival will take place at the Great Passion Play this year.

“The land’s flat. We have a lot of room,” she said. “It’s just a better location. We’re real excited, because the registrations are already coming in for this.”

Thurow said volunteers from the Passion Play and ECHO Clinic will help out during the event, with proceeds from the festival benefiting the clinic.

“It’s a new and improved event with 400 cars,” she said.

Morris Dillow, who is helping Thurow with the festival, said he and volunteer Eric Studer have already been promoting the event.

“We probably have 10 websites right now for free. Eric has found numerous, numerous promotional avenues,” Dillow said. “I handed out flyers in Wichita already.”

Thurow said a large antique car club has signed up for the event.

“We’re really excited. I don’t know if the Chamber has asked in the past for support for this event,” she said. “With the things we are doing and want to accomplish, we would really appreciate it.”

McClung remembered when more than 700 cars were involved in the festival.

“A big part of it then was when they used to park downtown…which I think is such an attraction,” McClung said. “It’s different now. I am inclined, with the new energy … I’m willing to give it a shot and see how it goes.”

The commission voted, unanimously agreeing to help fund the festival.

In other business, the commission addressed the policy for absences at meetings. Mitchell said it’s important for commissioners to attend as many monthly meetings as possible, saying the meetings require a quorum for voting to take place.

“There must be seven commissioners including the chairperson, and at what point does a person’s absence … make one wonder whether it’s time to recruit another person for that position?” Mitchell said. “If there’s 12 meetings and you miss four, that’s 25 percent.”

Commissioner Susan Harman said other commissions allow commissioners to miss three meetings a year, and Maloney said he would support a similar policy.

“If you are absent at four meetings a year, you are basically 25 percent ineffective. That could be the difference of getting a quorum,” Maloney said. “This does pave the way for future commissioners to realize they have an obligation to serve the community.”

Mitchell moved to allow commissioners to miss three meetings a year. Any absences after that, Mitchell said, would be considered a resignation from the commission. The commission voted, unanimously approving the motion.

Finance director Rick Bright moved on to present the financial report, saying the cash balance as of Feb. 28 was $449,580.62. He said the tax collections are remitted in February, but they are January collections. He listed these collections, saying restaurants brought in $29,240, down $3,260 (10 percent). Total lodging collections are $23,050, down $7,366 (24.2 percent). These lodging collections include: $4,910 for hotels, down $1,388 (22 percent); $10,189 for motels, down $5,151 (33.6 percent); $1,718 for B&Bs, down $631 (26.9 percent); and $6,233 for cabins and cottages, down $196 (3.1 percent). Bright said the year-to-date lodging collections compared with 2016 are down $2,427 (4 percent) and the year-to-date restaurant collections compared with 2016 are down $2,491 (3.7 percent). The year-to-date total collections, he said, are down $4,919 (3.9 percent).

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, at City Hall.

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