Full funding urged for Twilight Festival

The final decision is in the City Council’s hands.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:45 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Downtown Columbia might have its own celebration of the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s expedition next year.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board on Monday issued recommendations for how the city should distribute money from its Tourism Development Fund. The board suggested organizers of the Twilight Festival receive the full $12,594 they requested.

“We are happy as clams,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Associations. “We are just thrilled, but we know that we have to wait for the City Council now.”

The recommendation marks a turnaround for the Twilight Festival, which over the past two years had received less money from the fund. The additional funding will allow organizers to afford some extras, including the Lewis and Clark exhibit, a Twilight Concert Series and a Kids’ Camp at the festival. The Lewis and Clark event at one of the June festivals will feature a band, American Indian dancers and other exhibits.

The board’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Columbia City Council for approval as part of the city’s fiscal 2004 budget.

The CVB, supported by a 4 percent tax on hotel and motel stays, created the Tourism and Development Fund four years ago. Twenty-five percent of the tax proceeds go to the fund. Between $170,000 and $200,000 is donated to festivals and events each year.

Members of the CVB Advisory Board talked at length about applications last week and scored each event on its potential for growth. The Twilight Festival ranked second.

“We are concerned with how the funding will help the event to grow and bring people in from outside the market,” said Lorah Steiner, executive director of the CVB.

Twilight Festivals — held every Thursday in June and September — broke records last June by attracting more than 10,000 people each week, Gartner said.

“We work so hard to put together an application,” Gartner said of the tourism fund process. “It is great to be rewarded.”

Others, however, were disappointed. Although the CVB Advisory Board recommended $15,000 for MU’s Holiday Concert Series, it rejected a request for the same amount from the larger University Concert Series.

“The Holiday Concert Series is unique in that it is one of the very few things we have to hang our hat on during a low period of occupancy (in hotels and motels),” Steiner said. The University Concert Series, however, happens when occupancy is fairly high.

“The board as a rule does not want to fund a series of concerts, plays or musicals,” she said. “If you look at concert series, there is a finite cap on the growth.”

Julie Graff, assistant director of the University Concert Series, said it will continue as planned. The series has a total budget of $543,978, according to its grant application.

“If we secured funds we could have done something for next year, such as bring in larger names or acts,” Graff said.

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