There have been a few rumors and speculation regarding the Bluegrass & Chili Festival, so I thought I would share facts about this year’s event.
Some may have heard the festival will not be at the Claremore Expo Center for 2018. Jim Thomas, City Manager, Mayor Flanagan and I have met with Dell Davis the owner of the festival, several times. We have all put our heads together and discussed multiple times if it was possible to move forward with the 2018 event.
The history of the relationship between the Expo, the City and the festival is that the festival was produced by Ms. Davis and managed under the Claremore Chamber of Commerce. When Ms. Davis and the Chamber parted ways, the Chamber let the festival go with the hopes of it partnering with another entity. The City’s role in the event was to provide in-kind facilities, equipment and Expo staff and could do so because the Chamber (the managing partner) was a non-profit organization. At this point, the festival is owned by an individual, not a non-profit therefore we (the Expo) would have to charge full facility fees, including equipment. The value is approximately $20,000.
In our business, the event business, timing is everything and this rings true for this year’s event; bad timing. The event needs multiple sponsors and partners and with only three months left it could not be pulled together. In addition, the event is funded by parking fees paid for by the public, vendor registrations, a portion of vendor sales, beverage sales, chili taster kit sales and a portion of the car show registrations. Overall the event is approximately $200,000 to produce. With very little time and no sponsor commitments, the City, the Expo Center, or Visit Claremore could not assume the risk; the risk of putting start up money to guarantee performers with no guarantee of even a break-even event. We are stewards of tax payor dollars and this would be a risk of a loss.
The event has never been one to make money, but to bring people to town; visitor impact is in the hotel stays/RV Park stays and sales taxes. Given the state of our economy the last several years, these numbers have declined and it is hard to share that information when you are recruiting sponsors for an event of this size.
Ms. Davis continues to search for a new home for the Bluegrass & Chili Festival, and our team will do what we can to help when she does. Our Visit Claremore team will help promote through press releases, promotions such as utility stuffers, and through our digital marketing/social media companies.
Claremore has been home to the festival since 2001, when Dell brought it to the Expo Center while serving as the Marketing Director of the Claremore Expo Center. The event started in Tulsa some 38 years ago. Even though it had challenges with the move, it recovered over time. The event business is finicky at best, and the nature of the beast is you do what you have to make it a go until you can’t.
There is no one person at fault here. It is unfortunate, however, I truly feel we did everything we could within reason, to make it happen this year and we just couldn’t.
Tanya Andrews, CTIS;
Claremore Expo & Tourism Development