By Jim Stanford on January 26, 2012
The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has decided which community groups will receive lodging tax funds for promoting their events this year. The distribution is somewhat puzzling.
The chamber of commerce — well represented on the board — is the biggest recipient, netting $46,500 for Old West Days, Jackson Hole Marathon, Destination Wellness and WinterFest, the News&Guide reported.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will receive the maximum $20,000 for its Mountain Fest, the centerpiece of which is a free concert March 31. The resort has not yet booked a band, but the additional funding gives promoters a stronger hand, said Andy Calder, who produces the event for the resort with Dom Gagliardi of Poppa Presents.
“Let’s shoot for the stars* here,” Calder said.
The Stage Stop sled dog race, which starts Friday on the Town Square, will receive $10,000, as will the Jackson Hole Figure Skating Invitational and Vista 360 Fire Festival. Despite being one of the biggest draws of the winter, the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb also will get $10,000.
It’s disappointing the Jackson Hole Ski Club receives only $5,000 each for Town Downhill and Pole Pedal Paddle. The ski club brings hundreds of athletes and their families to town each winter and has been putting on these sporting events for more than 30 years — on a shoestring budget, with parents and volunteers staffing races for a free lift ticket.
The club sought $20,000 for each event, pitching a plan for Town Downhill with lucrative prize money, a JumboTron screen for spectators to watch the race, and a band performing afterward at the base. For PPP, the funding would go toward more prize money, lower entry fees, regional advertising and possibly bus service from the finish back to Teton Village, where the award ceremony and Mountain Fest concert await.
Here’s the funding breakdown, via the News&Guide:
Tax board members and a citizens’ subcommittee, which recommended funding amounts, apparently concluded the Town Downhill and PPP do not bring enough visitors to town, or attract athletes likely to stay with friends, etc.
History shows otherwise. The all-time winningest competitors in the Pole Pedal Paddle are Mike Freeburn and his wife, Jana — of Durango, Colo. — who combined for a total of 16 titles. The idea to hold the race here was conceived in 1975 by Harry Baxter, then the marketing director at the Jackson Hole Ski Area.
Nothing against these events, but how does the tax board give twice as much money ($10,000) to a marathon started only last year and four times as much ($20,000) to WinterFest, an umbrella created last year to group traditions like the Cutter Races with Dodgeball on Ice?
Ski racing is part of Jackson Hole’s heritage, dating to the 1930s and ’40s with Betty Woolsey and mates, World Cups at Teton Village in the 1970s, Tommy Moe‘s 1998 Olympic gold and Stiegler family exploits that continue today. Why not promote that heritage and bring in some of the fastest racers with cash prizes and a festive atmosphere?
Town Downhill and Pole Pedal Paddle are the best events of their kind in the West. They are organic, and anyone who has participated or has a whit of marketing imagination knows they have potential to be even better, for visitors and residents. Look at the attention Bend, Ore., receives for its PPP.
This community, vis a vis the lodging tax board, shouldn’t back itself into a corner in terms of the tourists it seeks. Those who come and stay with friends or in budget accommodations spend money at restaurants and bars, get their skis tuned, ride lifts. Last year the lodging deals were good enough for PPP/Mountain Fest weekend that even locals were booking rooms. We need not always be chasing wealthy gapers who buy airline tickets and suites at Four Seasons.
What’s wrong with appealing to tourists who look a lot like ourselves?
*Music promoter Calder cautioned that aiming high doesn’t mean landing the splashiest name, necessarily. Rather, he seeks the right fit, given artists’ schedules and budget constraints.
“There’s more to this than just taste,” he said.
Putting on an outdoor concert in winter is not cheap; stage and production costs run $30,000, before the band gets paid.
Calder emphasized that feedback from music fans is critical. Some ideas he has to dismiss outright, not because he doesn’t dig the bands but because they are in Europe or the recording studio. “Without people bouncing ideas off me and Dom, we are nowhere,” he said.
(Photo by Jonathan Selkowitz)