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Bootfest brings in less money than last year

By Melissa Crowe
Nov. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.
Updated Nov. 6, 2013 at 5:06 a.m.

Volunteers fill containers of ice with beer cans at Bootfest in Victoria.

With dwindling crowds and lower than expected sales, the third annual Bootfest grew farther from breaking even.

Before the City Council pitched in $100,000 in hotel occupancy tax funds, the festival cost $92,623, leaving some wondering whether the festival is a good use of city funds or whether the community spirit it builds justifies the cost.

Organized by the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau, the festival operates off donations, merchandise sales and vendor fees and a $100,000 contribution from the City Council, which covers a little more than a third of the total expenses.

Councilwoman Josephine Soliz said she had no comment about whether the expense was worth it.

"We hoped to break even, and we went even more in the hole," she said. "Everything went down."

She said she wants to revisit the numbers to see whether there is room to save on expenses or whether another project might be more beneficial.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Director LaRue Roth said Bootfest is the city's biggest celebration.

Roth presented the final figures to City Council members Tuesday evening.

Event organizers originally anticipated beer sales to top the previous year's event. However, those sales dipped by $39,176 to a final total of $111,732, according to the report.

"Without the funding the city provides, we could not provide this free event to the city," Roth said.

The city collects a hotel occupancy tax from overnight guests at Victoria's hotels. The money can only be spent for projects that benefit the hotel industry such as historic tourism, sports tourism or arts and culture events.

Roth attributed the decrease in attendance to the heat and humidity.

She said the crowd estimates - 24,000 to 27,000 - are "nothing to sneeze at."

"We had every reason to believe we would have a large crowd again this year," she said.

As a result of the smaller crowd, merchandise and beer sales decreased, she said.

Councilman Jeff Bauknight said he is happy with the outcome.

"I think it's a great event for Victoria," he said.

Though he cannot see that event breaking even without an admission fee, he said there is no intent to charge.

"I think it brings the community together, creates a community spirit and identity," he said.

He does not want to see the hotel occupancy tax portion to rise above $100,000.

If the hotel industry slows down and the tax revenue decreases, Bauknight said the city will have more to show than a few years with a free party.

"For the benefits for community identity and bringing everybody together and not having to charge anybody to attend, I think there's a great benefit in that," he said. "There's only certain things that money can even be spent for; there's already a handcuff put on how we can spend the HOT funds."

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