Festival task force meets with local event organizers

The city’s festival task force is knee deep in its research and although the team seems to be inching along at a fairly slow pace, chairman Nelson Driver says it’s all by design.

“I’m not as concerned with getting this done quickly as I am with getting it right,” said Driver.

The mayor-appointed group of local citizens has been tasked with studying the ins and outs of local festivals with an overall goal of delivering a report to Mayor Lioneld Jordan that can serve as a set of guidelines the city should follow to be able to attract the types of events that the mayor would like to see in Fayetteville.

The first few weeks have been dedicated to discussing successful events around the country and most recently, hearing from local event organizers who are willing to share their past successes and challenges.

Restaurant owner and A&P member Maudie Schmitt, a former New Orleans resident and guest at the third meeting, suggested the city hire a dedicated staff member who could assist with coordination, but the organizers disagreed and said that the processes required to put on a festival in Fayetteville are surprisingly easy.

Joe Martin Stage Race organizer Bruce Dunn said it’s not the applications or permits that are hard to manage. It’s securing the necessary amount of volunteers, resources, and sponsorships that is the biggest challenge. “Most people don’t know just how many volunteers it takes to put on a successful event,” he said.

Other organizers noted that the Fayetteville Visitors Bureau already plays a large role in helping coordinate dates and pointing organizers in the right direction. “I think the process works,” said Julie Sill. “Why change it?” Sill manages the annual Dickson Street Oktoberfest.

Finding support from city staff for a paid event coordinator isn’t likely either. “I think that idea was put to rest pretty quickly,” said Don Marr, Fayetteville chief of staff. “Besides,” he added, “the city is in a deficit and has no intention of adding any new services or headcount.”

What organizers said might help, at least for those who are new to the event scene, is simply getting the word out about the visitors bureau’s ability to help. Cassie Self of the Seedling Film Association’s new Offshoot Film Fest, said she was happy to hear about the bureau, but admitted she’d not yet thought to talk to anyone there.

In the coming weeks, the task force will hear from more event organizers and plans to schedule a public meeting to gain additional citizen input.

The group’s next meeting is Thursday, Aug. 19 in a yet-to-be-determined room inside City Hall.