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Wednesday, 01 July 2015 01:02

Jackson tourism board discusses how to improve new grant award system

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fr TDAjacksonJackson County’s tourism association has had a lot of things to figure out since its formation in 2012. Not least of those is how to divvy up the grant fund it keeps to help the county’s festivals and events promote these happenings outside the local area.

This was just the second year that the Tourism Development Authority gave out the grants, and as the board went through the requests blow-by-blow, some uncertainty emerged as to how, exactly, award decisions should be made. 

That uncertainty prompted the board to direct members Clifford Meads and Sarah Jennings to look into ways to tweak the process for the next go-around. Meads and Jennings will likely make a recommendation to the board sometime this summer. 

The questions are many. Should grants go to established events like Greening up the Mountains, which have survived for years without the TDA’s $1,200 kick-in? Or only to start-ups like the Front Street Arts and Crafts Show in Dillsboro, which debuted this year? 

And what about events that address the grant’s goal of promoting advertising outside the local area indirectly rather than head-on? The TDA wound up approving a $1,200 grant for the Tuck River Cleanup, for instance, but those dollars won’t go to advertising — rather, they’ll defray the direct cost of the event. The grant was warranted, the board decided, because the event is the largest single-day cleanup in the country and garners substantial press just by plugging along. So, by giving to the Tuck River Cleanup, the TDA is in effect giving toward editorial coverage that will have as wide a reach as any paid advertising. 

Plus, some board members postulated, isn’t a clean river just another form of advertising for the county? 

“When you hear about it on public radio and various and sundry places you think, ‘My God, I want to go there because they clean up their river,’” said board member Merrily Teasley, who owns the Balsam Mountain Inn. “If I’m looking for somewhere to go, I look at those things.”

But other board members said that the TDA still has some tweaking to do when it comes to its grant appropriations. Why should the rules get interpreted differently for the Tuck River Cleanup while other events have to abide by a more black-and-white reading?  

“I think we should do it, but I’m just wondering if there’s another niche for it [the Tuck River grant] as opposed to this, which is different in scope,” said Meads. “It’s hard to hold these other people to standards and just turn our head because it’s a community feel-good thing.”

Meads wound up voting for the Tuck River grant, which passed unanimously, but it wasn’t the only request to elicit a discussion about how the TDA grants could be done better. 

“It’s been incredibly confusing for some folks, and that’s why we’re looking at a little bit of a redesign,” said TDA Chairman Robert Jumper of the granting cycle.  

As it stands now, the yearly deadline for TDA grant submissions is April 1, with grants to be used between July 1 of that year and June 30 of the next. That means that a potential grantee could have to submit their application as far 14 months ahead of the date of their event — the long lead time can cause some organizations to miss the boat, Jumper said. 

That happened in one instance this year with an application from the Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival, in Cashiers. The festival should have turned in its application by April 1 of last year because this year’s event fell in the 2014-15 fiscal year. The board had to figure out how to contend with the fact that the festival’s request fell outside of the time period for which grant applications should apply. 

“In voting for this particular grant for approval, you are going outside the policy that the submissions have to come in that previous year,” Jumper told the board. “That’s fine if that’s what the board wants to do, and I’m not opposed to it. I just want to make sure you know this is an exception to the rule and not normal.”

The board wound up approving the grant 7-3 — Meads, Mary Lanning and Jim Hartbarger were the dissenting votes — but Jumper said the board is playing with the idea of moving to two six-month grant cycles a year rather than a single 12-month one. Doing so might eliminate such timing issues, he said. 

The TDA ended up approving all grant requests brought before it but distributed only $15,600 of the total $35,000 in grant funding it had available. 


What got funded

• Blues Brews & BBQ Festival, $1,200. A May 23 Memorial Day concert with activities at The Village Green by the Greater Cashiers Area Merchants Association. Approved 7-3 with Clifford Meads, Mary Lanning and Jim Hartbarger opposed. 

• Cashiers Valley Leaf Festival, $1,200. A Columbus weekend concert and artist/vendor exhibition at The Village Green Oct. 9-10. Approved 7-2 with Clifford Meads and Mary Lanning opposed. 

• Colorfest, $1,200. Art demonstrations and displays along Front Street in Dillsboro Oct. 3. Approved unanimously. 

• Dillsboro Luminaries, $1,200. Luminaries keep the streets aglow in Dillsboro while shops give open houses and horse and buggy rides are offered in December. Approved unanimously.

• Front Street Arts & Craft Show, $1,200. A new Dillsboro event featuring food, artisans and entertainment such as cloggers and musicians June 20. Approved unanimously. 

• Greening Up the Mountains, $1,200. Music and street vendors kick off spring in Sylva. Approved unanimously.

• Groovin’ on the Green Concert Series, $1,200. A series of Friday evening outdoor concerts in Cashiers June through October. Approved unanimously. 

• Sapphire Valley Master Association Summer Fun, $1,200. Various activities including Concerts on the Slopes, Arts & Crafts Festivals, Yankee Doodle Dandy Day. Approved unanimously.

• Sapphire Wildlife Days, $1,200. Educational and entertainment programming focused on wildlife, July 17-18. Approved unanimously. 

• Tuckaseigee River Cleanup, $1,200. The nation’s largest single-day river cleanup makes an April blitz on trash in the Tuck. Approved unanimously. 

• The Village Green Plein Air Festival, $1,200. Outdoor art studio creation around Cashiers, July 2016. Approved 9-1 with Clifford Meads dissenting. 

• Webster Historic Tour, $1,200. A new effort to showcase Webster’s history will include printed brochures and a fiberglass sign. Approved unanimously. 

• WNC Pottery Festival, $1,200. Work from Western North Carolina’s potters is displayed and juried Nov. 7 in Dillsboro. Approved unanimously. 

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