Bootfest still worthy investment

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 28, 2017 at 5 p.m.
Updated Dec. 29, 2017 at 6 a.m.

What price do we assign to civic pride? Or to a brief reprieve from a natural disaster?

That's a tough question to answer.

In early October, Bootfest brought our region together just a little more than a month after the harsh beating from Hurricane Harvey.

We gathered in DeLeon Plaza, listened to upbeat music, ate good food, competed in a softball tournament, imbibed our favorite beverage and enjoyed the company of friends.

On Friday and Saturday, our minds were distracted from the problems left in the wake of a powerful, devastating storm.

From that perspective - a very important perspective - Bootfest was a success.

Victoria officials recently released its breakdown of finances and figures about our city's seventh annual regional festival. The event did not break even financially - it lost about $64,000.

The festival is paid for by a 7 percent tax on hotel stays, which by law must be used to promote tourism and increase overnight stays at hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. Local governments can't use that tax revenue for other city projects or services such as building roads or filling potholes.

The City Council in years past would allocate Bootfest $100,000 in hotel tax revenue but decided against giving the festival more money this year. Instead, the festival relies on a special reserve fund, which is made up of leftover cash from previous allocations to the festival.

This year's shortfall will be absorbed by that special reserve fund, which will still have about $196,000 remaining. So this deficit will not affect any city services.

Joel Novosad, director of Explore Victoria Texas, the tourism arm of the city, said of the festival's cost of about $248,000, at least $85,000 was spent on local businesses such as shuttle providers and tent rental companies. Additionally, each vendor who set up shop - 55 sold merchandise and 28 sold food - made money during the festival, he said. Bootfest made about $184,000, of which about $108,000 came from beer and margarita sales.

"We did have what we consider a very successful Bootfest again," Novosad said.

That's a fair assessment.

And another factor that contributed to our psyche was that Bootfest occurred about a week after the Las Vegas massacre.

"People were ready for a nice, relaxing weekend of entertainment," said O.C. Garza, the city's spokesman.

He is correct.

The free two-day festival attracted between 14,500 and 17,500 people to downtown, a drop from last year's estimate of about 26,000. Bootfest resulted in 144 hotel stays, despite many of the city's hotel rooms were already occupied by hurricane-related stays. It allowed 20 acts of entertainment to perform for the thousands of spectators. And 445 residents volunteered their time to help at the event, which again showcased the heart of our city.

Bootfest has always been a free event since it began in 2011, so it will likely never really pay for itself.

However, that is not the only criterion to determine whether an event is worthwhile.

Bootfest is a good investment in the city, and this year, it also became a symbol of community resilience in the face of destruction.

That alone was worth the price.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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