Funds support festivals that bring visitors to Columbia, promote image

Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 5:59 p.m. CST; updated 9:26 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 10, 2011

COLUMBIA — Seven local festivals and events that attract visitors from out of town will be receiving $84,000 in city tourism funds.

The same seven events or festivals have been part of the Signature Series sponsored by the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau since it began in 2009.

How to apply

To apply to be a part of the Signature Series, an event must meet the following requirements:

  • Have been funded through the Tourism Development Program for at least three years.
  • Have shown continued growth in attendance.
  • Have a positive impact on the image of Columbia.
  • Have held the events during lower occupancy periods.
  • Have developed a positive reputation outside Columbia.
  • Have attracted significant press coverage.
  • Have maintained a strong organizational structure.
  • Have shown excellent stewardship of tourism development funds


The Convention and Visitors Bureau provides each festival with $10,000 per year in general funding with an additional $2,000 for out-of-market promotion and advertising designed to attract tourists.

Signature Series festivals and events for 2012 are: Art in the Park, the J.W. "Blind" Boone Ragtime and Jazz Festival, First Night, Heritage Festival, True/False Film Festival, UMC Concert Series Holiday Festival and MS 150 Script Express Bike Ride.

The Columbia City Council approved the funds Monday.

Individual event organizers handle the $2,000 for out-of-market promotion and advertising. The Convention and Visitors Bureau requires a report listing how the funds were used following the event or festival.

Diana Moxon, executive director of Columbia Art League, said the $2,000 represents  about 16 percent of the advertising budget for Art in the Park.  

The Columbia Art League also receives funding for Art in the Park through corporate sponsorships, fees for artists, food vendors, T-shirt sales and other contributions.

Moxon said the Art League spends about $8,000 in marketing overall. Most of the advertising is local or regional.

A majority of out-of-market advertising for Art in the Park is through American Style and American Craft magazines. The Art League also uses funds to pay for an ad in Missouri Life Magazine and billboard advertisements on U.S. 63 and Interstate 70.

Karen Ramey, superintendent of recreation and community programs for Columbia Parks and Recreation, said the Heritage Festival works through the Missouri Press Service to put advertisements in almost every newspaper in the state. The Heritage Festival also advertises through Discover Publications and Rural Missouri.

Lucille Salerno, artistic director of the J.W. "Blind" Boone Ragtime and Jazz Festival, said her organization places a half-page or full-page advertisement in a national publication called the American Rag.

Salerno also said there are about 12 ragtime organizations across the country, each with its own newsletter that advertises the festival.

KBIA radio in Columbia and the entertainment section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are also used for advertising the Ragtime and Jazz Festival.

Total advertising expenses for the Ragtime and Jazz Festival totals about $7,000, Salerno said.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is solely funded by a 4 percent tax on overnight stays at Columbia hotels. Of that 4 percent, 1 percent has been designated to festivals, events and attractions under tourism development. The other 3 percent is used for operational expenses.

Amy Schneider, acting director of the bureau, said, in a memo to the Columbia City Council, that Signature Series events  have boosted the image of the city: “These events make substantial contributions to the local economy and enhance the city’s overall image.”


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