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CON: Bigger festival means economic boost, more help for organizations

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
Oct. 10, 2010 at 5:10 a.m.

ABOVE: The large crowds at the 2009 Western Days/Ziegfest could grow even larger this year with the final Texas performance by Cross Canadian Ragweed.

Melissa Armstrong placed a sign promoting the 2010 Yorktown Western Days/Ziegfest along a busy highway near San Antonio.

A car whizzed by, pulled to the side of the road, then backed up to her location. A couple of young men piled out.

"They were so excited," Armstrong said. "They wanted to know who was the playing this year. They came last year and were coming back this year with 10 more carloads of friends."

It's that kind of enthusiasm - and anticipated attendance from across the state - that has Armstrong, the executive director of the 52nd annual festival, excited about the direction Western Days/Ziegfest is heading.

Only three other Ziegfests are held in Texas, in the much larger towns of Houston, Corpus Christi and College Station. They are sponsored in large part by Anhauser-Busch's ZiegenBock Amber and Del Papa Distributing Company. Yorktown's music festival is the only one with no admission charge.

Armstrong, who has headed up the festival association for nine years, has been criticized for the deal the board of directors approved in 2009 designating Western Days as a Ziegfest Texas music festival. But she defends the decision of the association's board of directors to go in that direction.

"It depends on what the goal of the festival is," Armstrong said. "If it's to stimulate the local as well as regional economy, then obviously success in the form of growth is going to accomplish that."

"If the your intent in producing the event is to just to provide local, small-scale entertainment for your local residents and community members who are now living elsewhere, then production would obviously be on a smaller level," she said.

Cory Thamm, a director in the Cuero Turkeyfest Association, also understands why some festivals feel the need to outgrow their small-town roots.

"Personally, I think that festival have two directions to go. They can either grow or they can die. There isn't a third direction," Thamm said. "For some festivals, the goal is to not only fund the next festival, but to give funds back to their community. For others still, funding is coupled with town/community promotion. Out-of-town festival goers visit businesses and give the entire local economy a little boost at least that is the hope."

Armstrong said that is the case in Yorktown.

"This event is the largest economic stimulus the local economy has. It is now extended as an economic stimuli for the surrounding communities and surrounding counties," Armstrong said. "This year we have already filled the motels in DeWitt County and started referring to Goliad and Victoria counties several weeks ago."

"Travelers come from all over the state. They will patronize our local and surrounding retail and lodging establishments," Armstrong continued. "Yorktown Western Days/Ziegfest is being produced to benefit Yorktown and the surrounding region."

Michelle Goebel, a DeWitt County resident, ranks Western Days among her favorite festivals. She understands the need for it to grow.

"If the goal of the event is to raise money and give it back to the community with scholarships and other donations, then it should do whatever it can to make it more attractive to a wider variety of people," Goebel said. "In turn, the people being there will help the local economy."

Armstrong said Western Days/Ziegfest profits are used to benefit local groups including youth scholarships, Lions Leos Youth Group, the Yorktown Athletic Booster Club, the Shattered Dreams Program, area Project Graduation programs, Newspapers in Education, the Yorktown Independent School District, Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, area Little League teams, Crossroads Youth Football League, DeWitt County FFA groups, DeWitt County Row Crop Tours, band booster clubs and various other youth groups and organizations.

"Any nonprofit organization in the community that is in need of support that is what we are here to provide, The success of the event allows us to do that," Armstrong said. "If we were to produce the event on a small-town level, we would be limited in the amount of assistance we would be able to provide."

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