Fayetteville Festival Task Force members share ideas

During the second meeting of the Fayetteville Festival Task Force, members of Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s newest team discussed some of their ideas for festivals that might be beneficial to Fayetteville’s residents, businesses and, of course, its bank account.

Jordan appointed and assembled the group to explore festival ideas as well as suggest policies the city might consider when developing a strategy for attracting the types of events that the mayor would like to see in Fayetteville.

According to a memo sent to the task force members last month, Jordan is looking for event ideas that “(1) celebrate the diverse cultural resources of our community; (2) provide additional entertainment options for local residents; (3) provide economic opportunities for local artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses; and (4) increase tax revenue for city government.”

Bikes, Blues & BBQ

The mayor said he wants to be proactive in his approach for attracting festivals instead of always being in a reactive position. Applications for funding help from the A&P Commission, Jordan said, are funded without any overall strategic consideration and the city is looking to create some approval policies for festivals since they affect public property and resources.

In other words, are there any festivals we could attract that might do really well here that don’t involve motorcycles? OK, so I inserted that last part myself. But after sitting through a two-hour brainstorming session that discussed more than 25 festival ideas – none of which had anything to do with revving engines – I got the feeling the group’s goal was to diversify things a little. Even if that wasn’t specifically outlined in the mayor’s marching orders or by Nelson Driver, the group’s chairman. Driver is also the director of the very successful Bikes, Blues & BBQ motorcycle rally which recently wrapped up its first-ever sister rally, Bikes, Babes & Bling.

After the group’s first meeting two weeks ago, the members were asked to bring in some ideas for expanding and improving upon already existing festivals and also to suggest ideas for new events.

NWA Pride Parade

Many members agreed that some type of large-scale art or music festival would be a good fit for Fayetteville. Others suggested closing off Dickson Street on football game days for a giant tailgating event or expanding upon Lights of the Ozarks by adding lights and holding activities along the city’s trail system.

Some of the more unique ideas included attractions that celebrate the cultural diversity of Northwest Arkansas such as a “taste of” event that highlights cuisines from around the world. There was also a discussion about a cultural festival the week before the Walmart shareholder’s meeting takes place. The idea would be to take advantage of the large group of culturally diverse tourists who are already here looking for things to do that week.

Besides compiling a list of events that the city might encourage or recruit that are representative of Fayetteville’s spirit, the group has also been asked to provide some analysis of successful events in other cities and how the problems and benefits those communities have experienced might translate here in Fayetteville.

Kansas City’s Plaza Art Fair, Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, and various “Taste Of” food festivals were mentioned as specific events to take a closer look at.

Springfest (photo: Jon Cox)

The group plans to talk to organizers of existing events to get suggestions on how to make Fayetteville more event friendly. A public meeting will also be scheduled in the coming weeks in order to gain additional citizen input.

In the end, festivals will still need to come from outside entities who are willing to take the risk of organizing and promoting an event. The city’s A&P Commission will still take funding requests and will still meet twice a year to decide who gets the money. And, of course, people will still need to attend the festivals if they are to become as sustainable and successful as Bikes, Blues & BBQ has over the last ten years.

Hopefully, after the city and commission take a good look at all of this, it will be better equipped to make decisions about how to entice successful promoters and how to spend the tax dollars that are specifically laid out to help fund events…the kind that are popular not only to those who live outside the city limits, but also to those who help pay for the events themselves.


Fayetteville Festival Task Force Members

Bootsie Ackerman – Downtown-Dickson Enhancement Project
Hope Bradberry – Downtown resident
Steve Clark – Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce
Nelson Driver – Bikes, Blues and BBQ
Allyson Twiggs Dyer – Fayetteville Visitors Bureau
Deb Euculano – Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce
Helena Wilson-Gadison – East Meets West Spa & Salon
Julie Gabel – Fayetteville Arts Council, Ceramic Cow Productions
Lea Ann Van Winkle-Gisler – Southern Hospitality Management
Alex Gonzales – Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, Old Navy
Marilyn Heifner – Fayetteville A&P Commission
Joy Heuer – Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce
Don Marr – City of Fayetteville
Sharon Waters – City of Fayetteville

Next meeting

Date: Thursday, July 22, 2010
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Location: Fayetteville City Hall, room 326