CAPC to begin analyzing plan for marketing

Thursday, June 1, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- While the height of the summer tourist season is yet to hit, the City Advertising and Promotion Commission will soon be analyzing it with a series of workshops scheduled in June and July.

With the Blues Festival coming on the heels of the May Fine Arts Festival, Festival Director Sally Riker said that after she had a chance to catch her breath after Blues Festival, in two or three weeks she would be ready to review the current marketing plan and its effectiveness and think about plans for 2007. The commission scheduled July 19 for a workshop to do just that.

Riker noted that "May is a huge thing we need to discuss." While Commissioner Terry McClung suggested a questionnaire could be sent to local businesses to collect input on the May festival, Riker said that mail would not work and that businesses should be called and visited to learn how the events impacted them.

She also asked Commissioner Steve Roberson to be included in the next meeting of the gallery association.

As for tracking effectiveness, Commissioner Richard Grinnell pursued previous discussion, acknowledging lodging occupancy as an accurate reflection of success in that market segment. He called for a better way to track results in the gift shop and restaurant segments.

While it can probably not be required of tax collectors to provide such information, it is hoped that they would voluntarily do so.

Riker's festival report began with the statement that she is about "arted out" with the month-long May Festival of the Arts coming to a conclusion. She stated that the yard and park art projects went over well, calling special attention to the heron at Grotto Spring.

Regarding a bird blind installed at Lake Leatherwood, Riker reported that a Lazuli Bunting, rarer than Indigo Buntings, had been sighted.

It is uncertain what will happen with park benches in Basin Park, which were painted by local artists for the May Festival. The parks commission is to decide whether to sell the benches and use proceeds to purchase new ones, or leave them as they are. She encouraged citizens to call the parks office to voice their opinion on the matter.

Art work in special projects generally sold out, she said, and the Peep Show, utilizing art with the popular marshmallow candy, went well. The winning entry in that exhibit went to John Rankin with "One More Peep Out of You." The performance art piece consisted of turning on a blender filled with Peeps.

As for the upcoming Blues Festival, Riker said she felt pretty confident about ticket sales, noting that radio mentions of the festival will start this weekend, and major stories in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Times will be coming out soon.

"Next week will be really busy," she predicted. Two packages created for Blues Festival have sold out, and a third one has been created, which is selling well, she said.

Recent stories and ads in magazines are getting the word out. Adding to the "busyness" is the fact that ticket sales at the CAPC/Transit Office are expected to get under way this weekend.

A question by Grinnell regarding the break-even point in ticket sales brought a reminder by bookkeeper Shelia Hulsey that all festivals were budgeted for a loss. Roberson recalled that 50-percent sales were planned in the budgeting process, and he expressed optimism that will be exceeded.

Showing of short public domain films in The Auditorium, initially brought up during a workshop at the facility earlier this month, was again addressed.

The basic idea is to show, free-of-charge, with income from concession sales, shorts such as those by The Three Stooges and Shirley Temple, for "dads and kids while mom shops."

Mayor Kathy Harrison questioned if the films would be shown in the Auditorium or in the building's basement, which is currently undergoing renovation.

Low-cost seating, such as bean bag chairs, could be used, providing a more casual setting for children. Liability concerns about spots on the floor covered with flattened tin cans could be addressed with signage.

Auditorium Manager Ray Dilfield was open to the idea, saying it is "doable," and commissioners seemed largely to favor having films in the basement due to the decreased utility costs for cooling the area.

Grinnell asked for a projection of costs for the project. Roberson suggested delaying action and allowing the Auditorium staff to try the project upstairs to see how it goes. He also asked if there would be an age restriction for children, and urged that the project not become a "drop-off day care center."

Harrison said that, regardless of where the films are shown, an adult will be required to stay with children, and suggested a maximum of four or five children per adult. McClung allowed that it is possible that children would be better behaved in the Auditorium proper, but the commission appeared to agree that utility costs for cooling a 1,000-seat Auditorium in July and August outweighed that consideration.

Also regarding the Auditorium, the commission agreed to have a workshop regarding rental fees for non-profit organizations, such as Eureka Theatre Company.

Dilfield also reported that the Auditorium's on-premise venue permit for beer and wine awaits only filing of a report from the county health unit with the state. He anticipates the county report to be done early next week, allowing the permit to be in hand in time for Blues Festival. Arrangements are already being made with a distributor.

Dilfield also reported that rehearsals are under way nightly from 9 p.m. to midnight for an upcoming modern dance/ballet presentation of "The Calling." During next week's Blues Festival, The Auditorium will be the site of five performances in three days.

Toward the end of the month, Dilfield said, a concert and premiere of a movie celebrating the life and times of Washboard Leo is scheduled, along with four days of "Africa In the Ozarks."

"That's probably getting as diverse as we can be," he opined.

In ongoing projects, he said that installation of a theatrical lighting system in the basement is concluded, enabling use of the area for small art exhibits, theater presentations, community gatherings and other small-scale events.

In the financial report, Hulsey reported that to date collections are 4.3 percent over the same time last year, but that there has been a slight drop from the previous month.

Bank balance at the end of April was $56,869, with CAPC tax collections totaling $68,736, slightly under the projection of $69,000.

Berry's report included notice of funding from a block grant has come in for a grow-out facility at Beaver Dam.

Among the many events she reported on, was that of 45 to 50 photographers being in town May 20-21, with poses being captured all over town. The Photography Society of Northwest Arkansas hopes to make the event an annual one, shooting for the third weekend of each May.

Berry also noted three writers with British publications, along with an English group travel representative, had made contact for information. With the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Department, the four Britons will tour the state, starting in Eureka Springs.

The CAPC's next Infomania program will focus on customer service with a presentation by Vital Sources, a public relations firm, at no charge. Infomania will be from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 13 in the Auditorium.

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