In support of its overarching goal to make downtown Williamsburg more attractive to locals and tourists, the city’s Economic Development Authority unanimously approved a pair of funding requests for summer events in the downtown area at its June 12 meeting.
The board issued a $2,000 grant to the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg for its Fourth of July Ice Cream Social event, which will be combined with a $500 grant that the EDA awarded to Kiwanis last month.
Kiwanis Club representative Gary Ripple said the event will be on the front lawn of the Christopher Wren Building from 4 to 7 p.m., and will include live music, food and drinks, games, children’s entertainment, and of course, ice cream. The club will cover food expenses for the event, but he said the $2,500 in EDA funds will go toward infrastructure costs.
“The big expense item that we face, and I say that it’s big compared to everything else, are the infrastructure items, and that includes all of the tents, tables and the chairs,” he said.
The Kiwanis event will pair neatly with the EDA’s own downtown Fourth of July event, which is expected to be held on the lawn of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Art Museum from noon to 4 p.m. and will strive to evoke an “Americana Fourth of July” with tethered hot air balloon rides, snacks and drinks being sold for a nickel, musical performances and an egg toss competition.
“It’s really key to part of what we talked about, which is expanding the programming for the Fourth of July to give people a full day’s worth of reasons to leave their community and come to ours,” EDA Chairman Adam Steely said at last month’s meeting.
Also at the meeting, the board signed off on a $2,500 grant to Colonial Williamsburg for its Summer Breeze concert series.
The free summer concert series will return to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Art Museum lawn for 12 weeks from June 26 to September 11. Last year’s concert series brought in a total of nearly 20,000 attendees, Colonial Williamsburg Vice President of Real Estate Jeff Duncan said, and about $50,000 in food and beverage sales.
Duncan said this year’s Summer Breeze series will be shortened from 16 weeks to 12 weeks because of costs associated with dismantling and then reassembling the staging to make way for the Funhouse Fest, now Williamsburg Live.
“We cut off a couple of concerts at the beginning of the season just for cost reasons,” he said. “It didn’t make sense to set everything up, tear down the stage and tent and then to put it back up again a week later.”
Future event funding requests will need to go through the city’s new Tourism Development Fund Grant Review Committee, city Economic Development Director Michele Mixner DeWitt said.
Winter Blues Jazz Fest and Scrumptious weekend
CultureFix co-founder Steve Rose was also at the meeting to brief the EDA on the impact that this year’s Winter Blues Jazz Fest and Scrumptious weekend had in Williamsburg. Both events received $10,000 in special event grant funding from the EDA.
Last January’s Winter Blues Jazz Fest attracted 2,368 festival-goers with 2,211 tickets sold, he said. Scrumptious was a new festival meant to tie together other existing events in town being organized by groups including Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels, the Williamsburg Rotary Club, Aspire Young Professionals and the Junior Women’s Club of Williamsburg into one long food-focused weekend.
Established events in town during the weekend of April 27 included the 56th annual Art on the Square, Foodapalooza and the 2019 Williamsburg Craft Beer Festival, he said.
“We were trying to show anybody that came from out of town, wherever they went in town, the idea would be that Scrumptious is there, so it looks like as a town or community, we’re all working together with one common goal,” Rose said.
Over 2,700 tickets were sold for Scrumptious, he said, with 4,000 total event-goers in attendance. Funding from the city went toward a 60-by-210-foot tent that was placed between the Williamsburg Community Building and the library plaza fountain for performers and attendees, which he said cost nearly $16,000.
“For us to be able to combine the efforts of these entities and use the funding for the infrastructure, so now we can create – there’s no way that any of these events could have afforded this infrastructure by themselves,” Rose said.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.