COLUMBIA — Planning leaders for the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival are calling this year's a success and are optimistic about its future development. At Monday's City Council meeting, Thumper Entertainment, the company that produces the festival, gave the city of Columbia a check for approximately $14,000.
That money came from sales of tickets, which were not free for the first time in the event's three-year history. Richard King, who owns The Blue Note and is involved with Thumper Entertainment, said turnout fulfilled his expectations.
More than 11,500 tickets were bought for the three-day weekend event. But King said he estimated the total crowd for the weekend at 50,000 people.
Despite the new charge for admission at two of the three music stages, these estimates suggest most people chose to experience the aspects of the festival that were free of charge.
Economic impact is a positive aspect of attracting large crowds. The Convention and Visitor's Bureau mentioned that additional room nights are purchased at area hotels during the festival. However, the crowds last year were estimated at between 120,000 and 130,000 people, far greater than what King estimated for this year's event.
The Convention and Visitor's Bureau made a $15,000 donation for the festival's barbecue contest this year.
“The advisory board has always been in favor of this event because it brings positive national press coverage to Columbia,” said Lorah Steiner, executive director of the bureau. “It draws a lot of people into our community.”
When people visit Columbia, they spend money at other area businesses while they are here. The city sees financial benefits from the increased sales tax revenue.
Is the $14,000 the city made worth the smaller crowds that may have resulted from admission fees? Or could the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival have a greater economic impact for the city if tickets were free again?