Feature Article - March 2008
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The Main Event

Pulling It Off Without a Hitch

By Kelli Anderson

Community values

Successful special events and festivals also understand the importance of valuing the community and respecting existing businesses. In San Luis Obispo, for example, local businesses are happy to shut down their streets on Thursdays for the farmer's market because they know that the market brings thousands of potential customers to their doors and that market vendors have been specially selected so that they do not compete with town businesses.

"Everyone has to have ownership of the market," Cotta explained. "You've got to get buy-in from the community. We close off the streets, so it simply wouldn't work without supportive clients."

Having a good relationship with the community and its businesses may seem like common sense, but when the focus for an event lacks a big picture and thinks only of short-term gain, it often sacrifices community relationships. For long-held events used to a nonprofit mentality singing the "that's-the-way-we've-always-done-it" mantra, apathy about change or improvement is often characterized by poor communication between community players.

"Quite frankly, it's a business, and it has to be run as a business. Sadly, the day of the handshake is goneā€”it's a thing of the past," Grabenbauer said. "I was brought in to bring city and agricultural venues together. I brought a new twist to marketing, advertising and entertainment to bring people in."

Grabenbauer's first order of business was for the fair board to join the chamber of commerce to increase each group's awareness of the other. Furthermore, recognizing his own limitations as a self-described "city boy" tackling the time-honored agricultural traditions of 4-H, Grabenbauer sought the help of those in the know from the Iowa State Extension to enhance his own communication and understanding.

For the Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair held for the past 52 years in Burnsville, N.C., forming good working relationships is essential to the success of the growing event.

"I think having a good relationship with all the partners in town makes it work," said Ashley Grindstaff, executive director of the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce. "That's key, especially for cooperation from the county and the town."