CAPC addresses budget cuts, media buys

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission met for the first of several planned weekly budget workshops on Wednesday, May 6, where the commissioners got a taste of the budget cuts to come.

Because of COVID-19, special events coordinator Tracy Johnson said, all entertainment in April and May has been canceled. Johnson said she expects the entertainment scheduled for June will be canceled, too, but she can’t say that for sure yet. Johnson said she’s focusing on planning events in November, saying she hopes to keep the $50,000 budget dedicated to the Folk Festival. The Folk Festival will follow the Fall Diversity Weekend, Johnson said.

Commissioner Susan Harman asked if there are any planned performances for the Music in the Park series, regularly scheduled for the second Saturday of the month. Finance director Rick Bright said those performances won’t resume until at least September.

“Everything is on hold until we see how the first two phases go,” Johnson said. “Fourteen days after May 18 is when the governor is going to reassess phase 2 and we’ll know more at that time.”

Johnson said the CAPC has saved $4,000 on Music in the Park performances so far.

“However, depending on how permitting and everything goes, I was looking to move those acts into our revitalizations time,” Johnson said, “so essentially, I was planning on using that savings as part of the Six Weeks of Fun in Eureka.”

Harman said the budget includes $20,000 to $30,000 for the Six Weeks of Fun and asked Johnson if the $4,000 saved from the Music in the Park series would be added to that amount. That’s not the case, Johnson said.

“It wouldn’t be additional. It would come out of that whole amount,” Johnson said. “That $20,000 to $30,000 is money that was already in my budget for other events that I’ve decided to cancel. It’s not a new ask. I simply shifted that toward the revitalization efforts instead of the classic rock festival I was planning.”

Johnson said all the contracts for upcoming events are on hold because of COVID-19.

“I’m in contract but it’s not finalized. Once we find out a better idea of … our timeline of having larger groups gather,” Johnson said, “I”m going to try to see the reality of placing them in an outdoor venue, most likely Basin Park, and then postponing further out until we can use the Auditorium.”

Johnson said she’d like to funnel bands that have name recognition to Basin Spring Park, with the exception of big-name acts like Tanya Tucker, who was scheduled to perform in the Auditorium on July 29. Johnson said she’d prefer to postpone Tucker’s performance until it’s safe to hold events in the Auditorium.

“Tanya Tucker is definitely someone I’d like to place in the Auditorium at some time,” Johnson said, “because we could do well off her performance.”

Harman asked Johnson to clarify the status of the contracts and Johnson said she’s figured out the logistics for the contracts but they aren’t signed yet. Commissioner Jeff Carter asked Johnson to bring those to the commission’s next meeting and Johnson declined to do so until interim director Gina Rambo has signed and finalized them.

“At this point, I am independently contracted and these are my private and personal contacts,” Johnson said. “[Rambo] has agreed to the dollar amount. All the terminology has been agreed upon by everyone in the office but at this point in time, I’d need to discuss this with Gina. I’m sorry, Jeff. I’m not sure of that at this point in time.”

Harman asked Johnson if she’d consider hosting outdoor concerts at a venue like the Great Passion Play and Johnson said she’s spoken with the Great Passion Play about that.

“As you know, they are faith-based,” Johnson said. “The conversation I’ve had with them about using that venue is more about them using it to bring in Christian rock bands. There’s a possibility they might be open to somebody like Tanya Tucker. I haven’t brought that up out of respect for the faith base of the facility.”

Carter noted “some pretty big cuts” on media buys in the budget, saying he’d prefer to keep as much of the budget as possible in media buys.

“So we can keep reaching out to our base and say, ‘We’re Eureka Springs,’ ” Carter said, “and limit what we’re doing now with events … until we know if we can have these events. We are not actually promoting an event for people to come here. We don’t know if it’s 100 percent safe.”

Harman said many of the events are planned for later in the year.

“You said you don’t know if it’s safe,” Harman said. “If we are going to be sending a message to people, ‘Hey, look at Eureka Springs,’ the goal is to get them to come here.”

Carter said the commission could focus on a more broad message.

“It’s a different marketing strategy. I would prefer not to give up our media buys and for now to cut here in hopes people come and start building this back up in an appropriate, responsible way,” Carter said.

“It’s going to be enough to ask them to come to town,” said commissioner James DeVito. “It’s a whole other thing to put them in close proximity to other people.”

“We have to prepare,” Harman said.

Johnson said she has tentatively scheduled dates for Junior Brown and the Sugar Hill Gang, saying she expects to postpone the Tanya Tucker show.

“Please keep in mind these will be further down the line when it’s much safer,” Johnson said.

“Much safer is the big question today,” DeVito said.

“Yes, sir. It is a fact that there will come a time where we reopen,” Johnson said. “It’s in my nature to be prepared. I am also going to be very sensitive to these timelines. It’s your job to make decisions about the budget. I’m not defending these Auditorium shows by any means. If something has to go, it’s up to you guys to decide.”

Carter reiterated that he’d prefer to keep the media buys, saying the commission could reassess the budget in 30 days and then decide what amount to remove from special events.

“We’re going to adjust this every 30 days,” Carter said. “Let’s keep our media buys so we are still engaged with our customers.”

The commission moved on to discuss the Fat Tire Festival, and Johnson said the commission won’t be spending any money on that event this year. If the festival does happen, Johnson said, it would just be a couple of sanctioned races. Johnson said it would be difficult to get any event permits with the festival scheduled in June.

“All the events and things in town we were going to sponsor … it’s absolutely not feasible for those to take place now,” Johnson said.

The commission agreed to meet for its next budget workshop at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 13. The workshop will be streamed live on Youtube.

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