Roots 'N' Blues attendance down in 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011 | 6:11 p.m. CDT; updated 6:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 3, 2011

COLUMBIA –The Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival drew an estimated 52,000 people to downtown Columbia, event organizers said in a news release on Monday.

Thumper Entertainment, which has put together and promoted the festival every year since 2008, released the attendance information a little more than three weeks after the conclusion of the event.

Jessica Brown, the festival director for Thumper Entertainment, said this year's attendance was determined by six different populations.

  • The number of contestants in the barbecue competition.
  • The number of runners in the half marathon and 10K race.
  • The number of vendors, sponsors and volunteers.
  • An estimated number of people who accompanied the barbecue and race competitors, based on 2010 surveys conducted by the Columbia Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The survey asked the competitors how many people  accompanied them to their respective events.
  • An estimated number of the non-ticketed crowd based on eyewitness reports from security and volunteers at the festival.
  • The number of people who bought single-day and weekend tickets to the festival.

Thumper did not release precise numbers for any of those populations, except the number of runners, saying 1,398 participated in the races. Brown said the company doesn't intend to release any further numbers or financial information to the public regarding the event.

"We're a private company," Brown said. "We're as open as we can be, but we're a business just like anybody else. We keep our books confidential."

The festival's estimated attendance of 52,000 represents a drop from last year's 65,000. Brown believed the increase in ticket prices contributed to the decline. Single-day ticket prices rose from $15 to $35, and two-day passes were up from $25 to $60.

"We expected a decrease in the turnout," Brown said. "Overall, though, we were very happy with the attendance numbers."

Thumper Entertainment also estimated there were people from 31 states at the festival. That number is based on the billing address of the credit cards used to purchase tickets on

The city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose mission is to attract tourists and conventions to Columbia, contributed $25,000 to this year's festival: $15,000 for the barbecue competition and $10,000 for the runs. The bureau's interim director, Amy Schneider, said Thumper's only obligation was to report how it used that money.

Brown said Thumper used half the money for each competition for prize money and half for marketing.

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Mike Martin October 3, 2011 | 6:56 p.m.

According to this article, public tax dollars contributed $50,000 with the express purpose that those dollars "attract tourists."

Absent solid measures and metrics, there's no way to determine how well those dollars were spent.

If you want to keep your numbers private, then fund your event privately. Just that simple.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin October 3, 2011 | 6:57 p.m.

Make that a public contribution of $25,000.

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