The tourism board sets aside a quarter of its budget — about $225,000 — to doll out in the form of mini grants each year. The mini-grant funding is split up among five locales, which each have their own committee to decide how to spend their piece of the pie. It gives each locale in the county a chance to fund pet projects or festivals seen as important to the tourism scene for their community.
The county tourism board must sign off on how the committees want to spend their pot of mini-grant funding, however.
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One of the winners in this year’s mini-grant funding was the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
The Canton mini-grant committee awarded $3,500 to the fairgrounds advertising — something it has struggled with in the past. The fairgrounds does not have someone whose sole job is to market the venue and get its name out there, making it difficult to attract new events.
“This is something that has not been funded before by Canton, but they have stepped up,” said Ken Stahl, the TDA finance chair.
Lake Junaluska’s mini-grant committee chipped in another $500 for the fairgrounds. Stahl said that the fairgrounds deserved some help from tourism money.
“The fairgrounds needs to get more play, more support,” Stahl said.
The venue includes a football field-sized covered arena and a second indoor exhibition hall used for events, such as the county fair, gun shows and horse competitions.
Waynesville’s mini-grant committee chose not to give any money to the fairgrounds this year because members felt it attracts mostly locals to its events and does not put heads in beds.
However, Waynesville’s committee did feel that at least one event does bring in people. It has allocated more than $8,100 to the Western Carolina Dog Fanciers Association for materials to promote its annual show held at the fairgrounds as well as Haywood County accommodations.
The annual dog fanciers’ show translates to 108 room nights, Stahl reported at the recent TDA meeting.
“That really could be a niche market so to speak because people come from far and wide,” Stahl said. “The numbers that we saw were very favorable.”
Two other notable allocations from the Waynesville committee that are newcomers on the mini-grant scene are: $1,500 for The Strand Theater to advertise a performance schedule for 2013-2014 and $3,000 to Bear Waters Brewing Company for a Waynesville Beer Fest in August 2013.