Mammoth Rocks … but how much roll can it generate for Mono County? That was the main question posed to organizers Matthew Lehman and Mark Deeds during Tuesday’s regular Mono County Tourism and Film Commission meeting. Deeds and Lehman came before commissioners as part of a local program funding request for advertising support.
The non-profit event brought in huge numbers to the Village at Mammoth during its maiden voyage last year during the previously vacant Aug. 21-22 weekend. Mono Tourism commissioners, however, had some issues regarding how much the county actually benefited from the event, and wanted to know what Deeds and Lehman could do to further its reach beyond the Mammoth Lakes town limits.
One of the biggest issues for the commissioners was lack of revenue flowing into the county. Mammoth Rocks pulled in 6,000 documented attendees, but that figure could be as many as 11,500, when you count the “clicks” as logged by security on Saturday, and add an additional 2,000 attendees who came on Friday night. Many of those generated a considerable amount of transient occupancy tax (TOT), which was good, but apart from sales tax to the state, it was hard to quantify what if any TOT was left in county coffers. “That’s the dilemma we face,” said Mono County Economic Development Director Dan Lyster. “We want to push Mammoth Lakes, which is part of the county, but we often don’t get any TOT.”
Matthew Lehman said new information compiled by his team could mean that problem may be largely solved this year. “People have indicated to us [via Facebook and other communications] they’re not just coming for the event, but will be staying longer,” Lehman told the Commission. “They’ll be fishing, going to Yosemite [National Park] and many of the bands are bringing their families.”
Promoting the other county restaurants and destinations, Lehman said, is “certainly an option.”
Other ideas discussed included driving people to the Mono County site off the Mammoth Rocks main page, a tie-in on giveaways and cross-promotional links back and forth from the two sites.
Deeds said the event was able to carry over $4,000 from last year’s budget to this year’s, but added that entertainer and marketing expenses have gone up, so there is “more of a significant need.” The event now spans three days and has seven bands on the main bill. Production costs of the expanded venture have also increased. The new main stage for Saturday, located on Canyon Blvd., will cost an additional $10,000.
“We’re trying to keep [the event] free, at least until it’s fairly established,” Lehman said. He hinted at the possibility of selling tickets in the future, but not anytime soon. “Venues are limited; even Sam’s Woodsite may not be an option very much longer.” With this year’s event, Lehman said Mammoth Rocks has already essentially outgrown the Village location, but will remain there at least for this year.
“How critical is our funding to the event?” Lyster asked. Very critical, Deeds replied. The Town of Mammoth Lakes has committed $15,000 to the event, but at the moment, event staff has already had to cut back on some marketing plans.
Next year, Mono Tourism said it is looking at the possibility of “less parsing out.” This would mean fewer of $2,000 support grants, with the Commission leaning toward spending many of those smaller amounts as part of larger $10,000 comprehensive advertising campaigns.
“I’d be a little more comfortable if you targeted the entire county for participation,” commented Commissioner Sandy Forstenzer.
Lehman and Deeds said that, apart from showcasing more options for lodging and dining in the greater Mono County area, they are also planning to reach out to bring in more countywide eateries as part of the Taste of the Sierra portion of the event. “We want to be a taste of the Sierra, as opposed to just Mammoth,” Lehman assured the Commission. “We also have invitations going out to Bishop and parts of Inyo County as well, and hope some of their vendors will cash in on the opportunity as well.”
Deeds said his experience as a vendor representing Rotary has given him a good idea as to what vendors will need, and that the event has infrastructure in place to accommodate eateries that choose to accept invitations. “They did really well last year,” Deeds recalled. “I think Angel’s, for instance, sold at least 500 pounds of ribs.”
Chair Jimmy Little, who was re-elected by the Commission for another term in the main seat, advised Lehman and Deeds that the Commission is standing by its requirements that events considered for funding generate visitation and related spending, but also seemed fairly satisfied with Mammoth Rocks’ plan and what it could bring to the county. “TOT is a concern, but clearly there’s an impact to the rest of the county,” he remarked.
The Commission unanimously approved $4,000 in outside advertising funding.
Bodie says “cut” to park filming
Recently appointed Mono Film Commissioner Alicia Vennos reported that Bodie State Park recently enacted a moratorium on any filming at Bodie State Park. Vennos said local staff made the call, largely based on what they consider the high maintenance aspect of handling film productions at the historic site.
Even the smallest productions can seem daunting to the few rangers that are needed to shepherd them around and monitor the crew’s activities. The staff also particularly nixed anything having to with the paranormal or ghosts, which they say brings out souvenir hunters and other hoodlums that disturb the property during the night hours.
The moratorium nixed a possible hour-long drama series pilot and a reality series pilot that planned to shoot at the park.
Apparently not a directive from the state, the park staff can make that decision without approval from Sacramento. Commissioner Danna Stroud wondered what could be done to foster opportunities, be it through augmented help from Sheriff’s Department staff or other types of assistance to relieve park staff of much of their burden. Vennos said that topic would likely be part of a revisiting of the issue scheduled with park staff for late July.
Some publicity and other types of promotional shoots are not affected by the moratorium, but the Commission wants the county to be seen as “film friendly” and thinks that the ban on filming isn’t conducive to promoting that image to the rest of the world, particularly to Hollywood. Chair Little advocated making sure this situation ais kept on the font burner and resolved quickly. “We can’t call ourselves ‘film friendly’ if we can’t make something happen,” Little opined. “Some people may decide they don’t want to deal with anything, but that position’s just not good for the county.”