TDA hears pitches for grants for summer events

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Davin Eldridge – Contributing Writer

Town Hall’s Board Room was nearly half-full on Monday, a rare occurrence, as local entities pitched Franklin’s Tourism Development Authority (TDA) on funding various upcoming events. From banjos and period dress to disc golf and barbecue – the coming months promise to bring a variety of different events to downtown Macon County. As of Monday, a funding request submitted to the Tourism Development Authority by the Scottish Tartans Museum was pulled. “They got funding elsewhere, so we’re just going to remove that one,” said Town Manager and TDA facilitator Summer Woodard. She did not indicate where the museum received the $1,495 they initially requested. The funding was needed for the purpose of printing some 15,000 museum brochures, which would be placed in the museum itself, North Carolina welcome centers, the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Smoky Mountain Host and various brochure racks located in area businesses. According to Tartan applicant Jim Akins, the museum and Heritage Center received approximately 10,421 visitors last year. “For many of our visitors, our museum was their primary destination,” wrote Akins in the request. “These visitors contributed to the local economy through their purchases, hotel stays and eating at our restaurants which directly impacts our economy.” Next up was this year’s grant request for the 14th annual Franklin Folk Heritage Festival. The pitch was made by Theresa Ramsey, who was asking the TDA for an even $2,000. The event will be held on Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center. Ramsey billed it as a free, family-friendly celebration of “all things Appalachian.” There will live heritage demonstrations, mountain arts and crafts, bluegrass, Civil War re-enactors, food, textiles and kid-friendly activities. According to Ramsey, “cultural tourism is a fast growing ‘niche’ in tourism and festival is a valuable attraction,” she wrote in her application, adding that the event has a history of attracting visitors and locals alike. “We will cross-promote the event with other groups to give greater exposure to bring in more visitors. “There’s always new things being brought into the fest each year,” said Ramsey, adding that the festival aims to avoid the “same old, same old.” “We really try to make this festival different.” “How many people normally attend?” asked TDA member Josh Drake. “Around a thousand,” said Ramsey candidly. “One year we had around 4,000… We had a lot of different states that were represented. We estimate somewhere around 19 states.” Following Ramsey was a pitch by Franklin’s Jimbo Ledford, who was requesting $5,000 for a planned music and arts festival called Jepaca Presents Springtopia 2018. The event promises to feature music, arts, beer, food, camping and community. Along with numerous indie musical acts spanning various genres, Ledford said the event has teamed up with Franklin Disc Golf Club, local breweries and food vendors. “We want this to be an annual event,” said Ledford, adding the event is billed as a weekend-long festival marketed toward younger demographics—ages 20 through their late 30s, with disposable income. “We’re trying to drive in that money to the local economy and we’re currently performing a strong social media campaign, too.” The funding requested would go toward ensuring the success of this year’s event, as well as those of future festivals. Next up, Franklin Chamber of Commerce gave their pitch for a $4,500 grant request to pay for a portion of advertising and promotion for this year’s Mountain High BBQ Festival & Car Show on Aug. 10 and 11. The funding would also help cover the added expense of this year’s entertainment, Summer Brooke and Mountain Faith, Jef and Professor Wiz Pop. “We are committed to enhancing the quality of life in Franklin, socially, culturally and economically,” read the application. According to the Chamber’s Cindy Cavender, this year’s event intends to register at least 60 professional barbecue cooking teams from across the country, as well as 18 backyard teams. The Chamber’s goal is to attract more than 5,000 people to the festival. “This event has proven to be a valuable addition to the Franklin community,” she said. “I checked with the major chain hotels in Franklin and Dillsboro after the festival last year, and all rooms were booked.”   She added that last year’s festival brought in guests from as many as 20 other states. After polling their cook teams and judges last year to determine approximately how much money they had spent in Franklin, Cavender said about half of those polled responded. Based on their findings, the Chamber found their total spending average equaled about $960 per team. Multiplied by the total team count, Cavender figures the town can expect an economic impact of roughly $53,200 from the teams alone. Altogether, she added, the town can anticipate around $70,000 in tourism dollars by the end of the weekend. “The stage has been set for this to be an outstanding event again this year,” she concluded. No deliberations or votes were made. The next meeting will be held on July 9, when the board is expected to vote on the grant requests made to it this week.

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