City Council looks back on Funhouse Fest, talks TDF committee and biennial goals

City Council heard from city staff and the organizers of June’s Funhouse Fest at a work session this past Monday.

Virginia Arts Festival manager Scott Jackson and director Rob Cross gave Council a presentation on the final attendance and revenue numbers for the 2018 Funhouse Fest, with a focus on the reduction from three days to two days, and an increase in out of town visitation from previous years.

Cross explained that this year’s iteration of the outdoor music festival brought in $674,924 in total revenue and 7,405 attendees. Over half of those event-goers were from outside the Greater Williamsburg area, according to Jackson.

When compared to last year’s Funhouse Fest, its organizers saw $11,559 drop in total revenue and nearly 300 fewer fans turn out for the event. Cross said the reductions could be chalked up to the change in the festival’s format from lasting three days to only two, along with a Friday night thunderstorm that drove some away.

“We only went back about $10,000 in revenue and most of that was attributable to the rain delay on Friday night which brought our food and beverage number down about $10,000,” he said.

Despite the revenue drop, Cross and Jackson boasted a total of 4,075 out of town ticket buyers for last June’s festival, which was an all-time high. Jackson said festival-goers came from 32 states, Washington D.C. and three foreign countries, and that they brought a sizable economic impact to the city along with them.

“We had an increase in out of town visitation, and this is the the single biggest part of the economic impact for us, is driving people from out of town that would not otherwise be here,” Jackson said.

According to the report, out-of-towners booked a total of 2,160 rooms in the city during the festival, bringing in around $663,120 in spending with an estimated $307 in spending per party.

Members of Council said they were happy to see numbers from the Funhouse Fest hold relatively steady despite the reduction in days and rainy weather.

“I was surprised and delighted to see that there wasn’t a greater decline in revenue having cut off Sunday,” said Vice-Mayor Doug Pons. “One might expect maybe a 20 percent (reduction), but I think you guys did well to make sure the revenue was still there, so that’s a really positive thing that I think leading into 2019, we can grow.”

Tourism Development Fund grant review committee

Michelle Mixner DeWitt, the city’s economic development director, followed up with an update on plans for the implementation strategy for the city’s Tourism Development Fund grant program.

The city expects to collect $2.5 million in revenue from SB 942, and City Council plans to spend $2.1 million of that tax revenue on grants funding new tourism-driving projects in the city. Following an initial presentation on the use of TDF funds in August, DeWitt returned to Council with revisions to the makeup of the tourism grant review committee and a streamlined application process timeline.

After discussing the matter with members of Council and city staff, DeWitt said the five-member grant review committee will now also include two ex officio members from the city, one from Planning Commission and another from the Economic Development Authority.

“City Council is the one who will determine how the funds and the grants are used, but there is a review committee to assist with that,” she said.

This change has eliminated the need for separate funding application reviews from Planning Commission and the EDA, said DeWitt, thus streamlining the grant review process, which would now run from March through October if approved.

DeWitt expects Council to appoint five city residents to the tourism grant review committee this fall, who will then be responsible for organizing two public meetings to solicit input on the important elements that the group should consider when reviewing an application.

“We’re going to be looking for a diverse group of people who broadly represent the (tourism) industry and the community,” said Mayor Paul Freiling.

Goals, Initiatives, Outcomes

Finally, Interim City Manager Andrew Trivette gave the board an update on the status of the city’s biennial Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes planning process, which will outline a list of milestones for the city to accomplish over the next two years once completed.

The process began with a presentation of the results of a citizen survey last month, and Trivette said next steps include two public workshops later this month and a City Council retreat in early October.

City staff will organize two workshops where members of the public can offer their opinions and learn more about the municipal goal-setting process. The first, scheduled for Sept. 20, will be in the Stryker Center from 5 to 7 p.m, Trivette said, while the second workshop on Sept. 21 will be on William and Mary’s campus from 2 to 4 p.m.

Further details will be finalized and announced closer to the event dates.

Next meeting:

Where: City Council Chambers, Stryker Center, 412 N. Boundary St.

When: 2 p.m. Sept. 13.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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