Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Businesses worry about arts festival's move; Renaissance says weekend could be bigger

By Rachel Bryant
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway Renaissance works with the Midway Business Association to promote commerce downtown, but merchants are concerned that the Renaissance decision to move the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival to Equus Run Vineyards will rob them of a big weekend.

“Of course we wish them all the luck but we’re wondering what kind of effect that’s going to have on what we do downtown,” said Eric Thoreson, owner of Damselfly Studio Gallery.

The festival has been held at Midway College since it began in 2004. Last year’s festival showcased 150 artists from 14 states and saw nearly 8,000 visitors.

The Renaissance committee in charge of the event announced at the group’s annual membership celebration Nov. 11 that it would hold the 2011 festival at Equus Run Vineyards and Winery, three and a half miles from downtown. (MapQuest image)

“I know there are efforts underway on trying to have people come downtown,” Thoreson said, “but it’s going to present challenges.”

Marcie Christensen, the Main Street manager for Renaissance, acknowledged at the meeting that the decision is causing concern among business owners.

“It was a long, long considered decision and carefully considered,” Christensen said. “It presents some challenges because there are some people who are concerned about how it’s going to work.”

While business owners fear that the new location will take the customers they normally see that weekend, Christensen says the change will attract more visitors to the area.

“I disagree with the opinion that we won't draw as many customers downtown,” she said in an interview. “In fact, I think we can draw even more than we have in years past. We'll be working with the Midway Business Association and the community over the next few months to develop plans and promotions that will tie the festival to downtown in ways that draw visitors to both places during the last weekend in June and well beyond.”

There were many factors in the decision to move the festival. Christensen said the college was not interested in a multi-year agreement to host the event, and the uncertainty left the board looking for alternate venues.

A group of artists, arts organization directors, and marketing consultants advised the committee that Equus Run offered many benefits, Christensen said: convenient parking, electricity for exhibitors, the opportunity to drink beer or wine, an even greater variety of dining options, room allowing a booth layout with easy access, and broad promotion from the winery including its thousands of loyal customers.

The college had declined to allow beer and wine to be served on its campus, Christensen said.

Not only are merchants worried about business, some feel that the involvement of the college was an important part of the festival.

“The college won’t be promoted at all. That was free advertising for the college and its nice having any college involved in the arts,” said Leslie Penn, owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store.

While merchants worry about the possibility of lost sales that weekend, they recognize that it’s impossible to know the end results, and acknowledged that it could be a successful event for all involved.

“Now one good thing about our outlook from the merchants’ association is we are trying to make people shop not just in Midway but all around Central Kentucky,” Penn said, “so expanding it out there might be good.” The committee’s new challenge moving forward, Christensen said, is to develop the concept of the community of Midway to be more inclusive, interdependent and collaborative.

She said at the meeting, “One of the things that is important for all involved in Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival or who wants to be or feels that it is an important part of the community is to look at expanding our concept of what our community is, and figuring out ways that we can make this work very well for everyone.”


Anonymous said...

Not that the city ever got all the taxes due from the exhibitors, this move will mean the city would get nothing in terms of license and occupational taxes from the vendors. Great work Renaissance, did you forget you were started for Midway?

M. Christensen said...

There were no taxes due the city of Midway from the exhibitors. The law requires exhibitors to collect and remit Kentucky State Sales Tax, which, to my knowledge, they did.

Midway Renaissance was indeed started for Midway, Equus Run Vineyards is a part of Midway, and Midway will benefit from Francisco's Farm Arts Festival.

Al Cross said...

While Equus Run is not in the city limits, it is in Greater Midway, as defined by both the census and the post office: http://midwayky.blogspot.com/2008/02/midway-can-be-more-than-just-town-of.html

Bob Rathbone said...

Not exactly the article that I was expecting to see in the Blog. When I was contacted by the reporter, the article goal was described as "a feel good article about the history of Renaissance, its accomplishments, goals,current projects, new members, and ways people can get involved" and "to show that Renaissance is a positive net in the community". Is this the intended article?

Al Cross said...

No, Bob. That one is in process and will be posted on the Midway Messenger website later.

Anonymous said...

Dear M. Christensen,
You need to review the ordindancies for the City of Midway and in particular review section 34.047 and 34.070-082. These sections impose an itinerate merchant permit and occupational tax on anyone offering goods for sale within city limits. These are available online and a link can be found on the city's website under government.

M. Christensen said...

Anonymous, I am familiar with the ordinances you referenced. I have a letter from the City Clerk dated June 30, 2010 stating the 'itinerant peddler's license fee' of $10 per day is to be imposed on the exhibiting artists beginning with the 2011 Francisco's Farm Arts Festival. If you will contact me I will be happy to share the letter with you.

Anonymous said...

That's convienent that once the city decides to enforce its own ordinance for the itinerate merchant permit, the festival is moved out of the city limits. I guess the free ride for the last 6 years must be continued.

M. Christensen said...

Anonymous, the festival did not receive a 'free ride for the last 6 years'. I invite you, again, to contact me directly to discuss the facts, and will not respond to further comments in this blog.