Towns should work together, perhaps through TDA to attract events
The new Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen should be commended for sitting down and hashing out the issues with the festival grounds.
The board held an all-day work session last week and will be meeting again tomorrow to make some final decisions. And for the most part, the board members seem to be in agreement on the direction to take, which is a welcomed change to how the board was functioning before the last election.
For the last several years, the board hasn’t been closely involved with the grounds operations, except to rubber stamp the event schedule, because the town had a full-time director and a festivals committee that recommended events.
But after digging deeper into how things have been running and how the town departments have been affected, the board has decided to re-examine the grounds policies and procedures. The town fired the director in October and board members seem to agree that a full-time director is not what the town needs to have a successful venue.
While not rehiring a director will save the town money in the short term, the board also hopes to decrease the town’s contribution to the grounds by putting more responsibility on the promoters who put on the events.
There are many reasons for the town to not be in the business of putting on events. It’s appealing to be able to charge for certain fees and hand over the keys to a promoter that’s organizing the event. If the promoter needs our police presence or help from the towns public works department — an additional fee can be charged.
On the other hand, town leaders need only to look at what has happened at the Haywood County Fairgrounds after the board decided it couldn’t afford a full-time director. The number of activities at the grounds steadily increased, but once there was no paid individual in charge of promoting, booking plummeted.
In the case of Maggie Valley, the calendar of events for 2014 is booked solid except for three weekends, but that could be attributed to the groundwork done by the former director. It is fairly easy to bring back the same events year after year, but if the goal is to attract bigger and better events in the future, the town needs to think about whose responsibility that will be.
Since there is no director for the festival grounds, the county fairgrounds or at the two fairly underutilized Canton public facilities — the Colonial and Camp Hope — there’s a golden opportunity for cooperation.
Just think of how busy the county would be if there were entertainment events, reunions, retreats, conferences, swap meets, truck and tractor pulls and myriad other events scheduled each week.
Maggie Valley leaders are in a perfect position to start a dialogue that could benefit not only the county and other towns, but all businesses in the county.
We applaud the town of Maggie Valley’s efforts to save taxpayer money spent on the festival grounds and hope the board can catapult its festival director void into a positive that will be felt countywide.
Perhaps the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, with its nearly $1 million budget, would be the perfect entity to facilitate such an effort.