Board grapples on who will oversee festival grounds

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Feb 08, 2014

The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen quickly agreed on a vision and a mission statement for the town's festival grounds, but the verdict is still out on who will oversee events at the facility.

In a workshop Wednesday — one of several that has been held on the festival grounds — new Alderman Mike Eveland had a vision statement in mind that the board accepted unanimously:

“To provide a quality facility for diverse entertainment, arts, business, social and educational opportunities and events. To drive economic growth and enhance the community quality of life by promoting a facility that is safe, versatile, active and fiscally responsible.

The board agreed its mission statement for the grounds would be “To provide the best possible facility in a fiscally responsible manner to provide an environment for promoter success.”

The board also has to figure out a way to continue to market and facilitate a busy 2014 event schedule without a festival grounds director. Alderman Saralyn Price first made the suggestion of allowing the town staff to take over some of the responsibilities of former director Audrey Hager, who was fired in October.

She said Town Clerk Vickie Best could be the contact person to distribute applications to promoters and Public Works Director Mike Mehaffey could be the one to show the grounds to promoters.

Mayor Ron DeSimone suggested that the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce would be a better fit to help with those tasks.

“I don’t want to put that on town staff,” he said. “I’d rather see us share that responsibility with a group or entity in town. The chamber makes the most sense since they are occupying space in town hall already.”

He said Chamber Director Teresa Smith already had knowledge of many of the events and the facilities and could be the contact person for promoters. Since the board doesn’t want to involve the town in alcohol permitting for events any more, DeSimone said it would make sense for the Chamber to be able to apply for the permit as a nonprofit. He said it would be an added incentive for the Chamber because alcohol sales could create a revenue stream for the organization.

“They don’t have to be there for the event but they need to be available by phone to contact if there’s a problem,” he said.

Smith, who was present at the workshop, said that suggestion would have to be brought before the chamber board for a decision, “but personally I think the chamber could mutually benefit from being a part of that.” She added that she might need part-time administrative help though to show the fairgrounds and do paperwork if she is tied up with other work.

Town Manager Nathan Clark brought up an idea put forth in a Mountaineer editorial regarding more countywide cooperation when it comes to promoting and booking all entertainment venues in Haywood County. He said the idea of having one person or entity, perhaps the Tourist Development Authority, to promote all venues hadn’t been looked at before.

Eveland said it was definitely an idea to explore and discuss with TDA Director Lynn Collins.

DeSimone said he liked the fact that the chamber is in Maggie Valley, which would make it easier to promote the grounds and show the facility to promoters.

“I’m all about partnering with the county on many levels, but this is a Maggie Valley asset with the purpose of helping Maggie Valley businesses,” he said.

Alderman Phillip Wight said he would like to go at least a year with the town staff handling the promoting.

“I think we could do it in house on any level and it could be more efficient,” he said.  “I’m more interested in going for a year with our staff doing it and seeing what happens. If it’s too much on our staff, they will let us know.”

The board asked Clark and town staff to create a list of pros and cons for each plan and bring it back to the board at a later date.

The board also discussed the possibility of disbanding the town’s Parks, Recreation and Festival Advisory Committee. The committee was established in 2003 for the main purpose of reviewing event applications and making recommendations to the board on which events to approve.

When discussing the committee’s function, Eveland said he didn’t think it was necessary to have the recommendations if the ultimate decision lies with the elected board anyway.

“There’s no legal reason for you to have a parks committee so you can disband it or create a committee to reflect the new vision,” Clark said.

No final decision was made on changing the committee, which is made up of unpaid volunteers.