Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Downtown festival has important purpose
This year was the third year for Bootfest. The free festival has consistently attracted thousands of visitors to Victoria's downtown area.
Unfortunately, this year's festival did not raise as much revenue as last year's. However, it isn't fair to do a direct comparison the two events. Last year, the organizers caught a lucky break by scheduling country singer Easton Corbin right before he released a hit song. That became a huge draw for the festival. This year, the organizers brought in several quality performers, but the headliner, country music artist Jerrod Niemann, did not have the same level of national hype as Corbin at the time of the festival.
But even with an overall decrease in revenue, Bootfest still attracted 24,000 to 27,000 people this year, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director LaRue Roth said in a previous article. That is an impressive number, and we are excited to see the festival is receiving such a strong response. The 2012 Bootfest saw an estimated 29,000 to 32,000 in attendance, and 2011 saw 20,000 to 23,000 attendees.
It is clear that Bootfest is consistently attracting a large number of people to Victoria's downtown area, which is one of the goals of the event. Bootfest is promoting Victoria's name and creating a brand for the city. This positive, family-oriented event offers visitors free access to enjoy and explore our beautiful downtown. Revenue is collected through donations, merchandise, vendor fees and a $100,000 grant of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds from the Victoria City Council. Ideally, this would be a self-sustaining event, and it may reach that point in the future. But even if the city needs to continue to invest HOT funds in this festival, it is a good investment for the Victoria community.
Looking at the expenses for this event does raise some questions. The city paid employees $49,039 in overtime to put this festival together. We understand this is a large undertaking, but spending almost $50,000 in overtime seems excessive. Every year, Bootfest is supported by hundreds of volunteers. Perhaps the city should find a way to better utilize volunteers to help limit the amount of overtime from city employees. If this festival is to approach the ability to be self-sufficient, the city must find a way to control expenses while also working to increase revenue.
According to information from the city of Victoria, more than $39,000 was spent on equipment rentals for this year's Bootfest. The children's area in particular was filled with all sorts of inflatable games and activities. Perhaps the city should consider creating a small fee for access to that area of the festival. Asking $1 for a wristband to get unlimited access to the kids' area would hardly create any economic strain on a family, is a good deal for all the activities available and will help recoup some of the money invested in these items.
Overall, we see Bootfest as a successful investment for Victoria. As time goes by, the event will be streamlined, and more efficient expense management systems will be developed. We look forward to seeing how much more this event will grow. It may not be self-sufficient yet, but the exposure it gives to downtown Victoria is a big plus.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.