On Tuesday, September 17th, at the workshop held prior to the Winter Park Town Council’s regular meeting, Winter Park & Fraser Chamber executive director, Catherine Ross, and Chamber Board director, Mindy O’Neil, presented a Chamber update to the council.
Ross opened by saying, “I want to thank you for having a vision and trusting us to implement it.” She added, “We enjoyed ourselves this summer. We had some stresses, but we should all congratulate ourselves for working toward a shared vision, serving our community and making it stronger. Thank you again for letting us work for you.”
According to data from the Chamber’s website, playwinterpark.com, 2019 activity was outpacing the previous several years. So far, the number of users has increased 28.14% (to about 400K); sessions increased 22.74% (over 550K); and, pageviews increased 5.97% (1.2 million). 44% of the pageviews were event-related.
On the topic of events, many of the summer’s events saw increases and record attendance. Grand County Blues Society’s (GCBS) Blues from the Top festival had 4,207 at the 2-day festival, an increase of 650+ over 2018; the 4th of July celebration at Rendezvous Event Center saw over 5,000; JazzFest had 7,765, well over the 5,705 in 2018; SolShine had 1,907 this summer vs. 1,224 in 2018; and Country in the Park doubled attendance this year, going from 1,674 in 2018 to 3,267.
The Switchback Music Festival, which went from two days to a one day event this summer, saw a decrease from 1,711 in 2018 to 1,480 this year. This was also the show that started with 4” of fresh snow on the first day of summer. As a result of weather unpredictability, the Chamber has decided to move the show from June to July in 2020.
Summer 2020 proposed schedule of events
- June 20: Active Lifestyle Event (Winter Park Resort) – half-marathon/10k/trail run connecting the resort to downtown Winter Park.
- June 25 – August 27: High Note Thursdays. The Chamber plans to schedule a higher level of talent at the free shows to promote extension of weekend visitors.
- June 27-28: Blues from the Top (GCBS)
- July 4: Run for Independence and 4th of July Celebration
- July 7-12: US Cycling Mountain Bike Championships return to Winter Park Resort. The Chamber plans to create a “bike week” atmosphere throughout town.
- July 11-12: Winter Park Alpine Art Affair
- July 18-19: Winter Park JazzFest
- July 25: Switchback Concert – the evening show, scheduled from 6-10 pm, is now a concert, instead of a festival, with an opening act followed by the headliner. The genre and acts are still to be determined.
- August 1: Beer Fest (Radiate Live)
- August 8: Bike Winter Park (Roll Massif)
- August 15: Uncorked
- August 22: SolShine Concert – the second evening show of the summer will also feature an opener and headliner in the bluegrass or jam genre.
- August 29: Tequila & Tacos – the Chamber is looking to secure a major food vendor to supply tacos
- September 5: Country in the Park will add Friday night pre- and Saturday after-party events.
- September 12: FallFest (Grand Kids)
Booking talent is always a challenge, and Ross told council, “What I need to say about events is, this budget does not allow bringing better talent.” With some bands and acts asking $250K or more, the highest they’ve been able to go so far is $130K. “We are trying to do a balancing act and continue with marketing,” said Ross. JazzFest is the only concert that sustains itself financially. “The level of talent this year, we pushed the envelope with Band of Horses and Josh Turner,” she explained. If they are able to find sponsorships of $100K and greater, they might be able to bring next level talent. “We are on a parallel path to find sponsor dollars – we can’t hedge our bets without sponsorship funds. We are being responsible with your dollars and reputation.”
A storage facility, added fencing to secure the perimeter, and Winter Park-specific signage on the stage, to identify the location, were discussed as needed items. Construction of the new Visitor’s Center is also underway and design is currently in process.
During the summer’s events, there were cases where volunteers did not show up, leaving them short-staffed for safely handling event security. “We don’t have the right, qualified people on the perimeter. We have volunteers at the gate and they are rushing to get people in. We’ve had incidents that put our volunteers at risk.” Ross suggested that switching to paid professional security for events would be much better for overall and health and safety. She estimated the annual cost would be about $45K, which includes meals, lodging and extra people to switch out for long days.
Mayor Pro-tem Nick Kutrumbos stated, “Looking at the big picture and where we are going, we built a $3 million stage. $45K seems like a pretty good investment.” He added, “Are we creating the experience our guests deserve? It is my job to keep pushing – how can we continue to make it better? The feedback is that it generates more sales tax, and we all agree it drives our economy.”
The Chamber continues to collaborate with Winter Park Resort on branding and events, such as the Venture Out campaign, the holiday tree lighting and downtown activation efforts for the holidays. They had just celebrated the “brand-anniversary” the week prior. “This has been very successful and has led to increased visitation through our website, and it drove business to our community,” said Ross.
While actual numbers related to specific events are difficult to pinpoint, Mayor Jimmy Lahrman observed the increased sales tax revenues for May through July were at about 20%. “We are doing a great job with visitation,” he said. “Does the Chamber board feel events are the mission for attracting to our community? Are we creating a cycle in the future where it’s not sustainable and are we better served at looking at different ways to bring people to the community, as opposed to events?”
Board president O’Neil replied, “With anything that we do, not every event affects every sector of the chamber, but something we do, such as biking, hiking, people are going to come. Our mission is to promote businesses, to make them successful. I think we can bring more business in. We are a thriving community. The things we do are more the signature events, but all the other things we do throughout the year, marketing, partnerships – there is more to do than just ski, mountain bike and go to events.”
Mayor Lahrman said, “Events are secondary to showcasing our community. I don’t think we need to put out a concert to compete with Red Rocks. This is just one piece that attracts visitors. Right now, we are almost at capacity. I don’t feel like we need to increase budget for more events.”
The Chamber proposed their 2020 Marketing & Events budget, including general operating expenses and the addition of professional security, would amount to $1,845,455. $1,033,000 would come from the town’s sales tax/general fund, and $812,455 will be derived from ticket sales, sponsorships and onsite revenues.
“In essence, this is a great recap of summer activity,” said town manager Keith Riesberg. “If we look at 3 years ago, clearly actions taken by the town and the chamber have had positive effect. Recognizing all the interplay with each other, the summer activity has been successful. The budget will anticipate the level of funding provided in the past, with the addition of security as recommended.
To learn more, visit wpgov.com.