Greenwood’s dual summer festivals accounted for almost $7 million in economic development this year, bringing huge windfalls to local restaurants and lodgers, organizers said on Monday.
Between the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Festival of Flowers and Uptown’s Festival of Discovery, nearly 150,000 visitors poured into the region from more than a dozen states.
The numbers were released to the City Council and an accommodations tax advisory committee five as cultural groups made $134,400 worth of requests for funding to support programming next year.
The panel will make its recommendations to city leaders by Monday when the council is set to vote on them.
Cuts will have to be made, as $116,306 is available — though it marks a $12,550 uptick from 2018 levels.
Chamber officials said the 52nd annual Festival of Flowers contributed $ 4.2 million into the economy, with an estimated attendance of 90,000.
“Clearly, this festival is rooted in tradition. It produces the largest economic impact for this community, it’s like no other,” Greenwood Chamber CEO Angelle LaBorde said. “One of our strategies this year is to attract more travel groups so we can put together packages and use the theater and arts venues, and really track through our website people that come, and begin to grow that over the years.”
The festival is seeking $38,800 in accommodations tax funding, with the bulk of it to be used for an aggressive push into the greater Columbia market using existing partnerships with digital media companies and WIS-TV, LaBorde said.
“This year, we utilized your dollars and focused on targeting an audience within three hours of Greenwood. We know that’s our sweet spot, and really wanted to tap into that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Uptown’s Festival of Discovery generated a $2.5 million economic footprint this past summer, pulling 39,000 people from 12 states and 72 zip codes, Uptown Manager Lara Hudson said.
Headed into its milestone 20th year, Hudson said the festival is seeking $30,000 in a bid to book nationally known talent to anchor its popular Blues Cruise circuit.
“We know they have a unique following, and we want to able to bring in some bigger acts,” Hudson said.
The festival was responsible for $194,000 worth of hotel revenue, $142,000 worth of sales tax and pushed profits for restaurants up $55,920 over a typical weekend, Hudson said.
Other entities seeking accommodations tax dollars are:
The Emerald Triangle, which asked for $42,100
- Greenwood Performing Arts, which requested $12,500
- Railroad Historical Center, which is seeking $11,000
The Emerald Triangle represents a trio of the Greenwood Community Theatre, The Museum and The Arts Center, with any money being split among them.
“That money is very integral to help us to continue to good productions, good exhibits out for the public,” Stephen Gilbert, the theatre’s executive director, said. “The festivals do a great job. We’re here every weekend of the year. This money that we ask for, we use and rely on all year long. It gives people a reason to come to Greenwood other than the festivals.”
Arts Center Executive Director Anne Craig said the Main Street building gets heavy use, in 2018 hosting 128 events. And taken together, the three organizations brought more than 47,000 people to the Uptown.
Meanwhile, Greenwood Performing Arts, which launches its 73rd season in October, continues to expand its audience base while pursuing acts that keep the Emerald City a destination in the Upstate, executive director Christy Rowe said.
“We work hard to make sure that our organization expands to positively impact our city,” Rowe said. “Our goal is to keep people from going to Greenville and Newberry to see these shows,” she said.
Rowe said the money would be used to offset technical expenses, provide lodging for performers and cover costs related to scouting.