Tourism Commission tries to relieve County’s heartburn over air service subsidy
Mono Tourism Commission Chair Jimmy Little described it at the Commission’s regular meeting in Lee Vining on Tuesday as “a case of ‘fire and forget.’” He was referring to last year’s Board of Supervisors’ approval of $45,000 to help Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the Town of Mammoth Lakes cover last fall’s shoulder season air subsidy to Horizon/Alaska Airline. “I got the distinct impression there was a lots of heartburn over it on the part of the County, but you can’t just write a check for $45,000 and walk away and hope it all works out for the best. Look in the mirror and you’ll see where some of that heartburn came from.”
Little’s qualms with the County’s reluctance to renew its involvement in air service subsidies so far this year, stem from his and other commissioners’ beliefs that some amount should go to securing the County’s participation in air service.
To that end, the Commission recently organized an Air Service Subcommittee, which first met last Friday. Commissioner Danna Stroud, who attended with Little, Economic Development Director Dan Lyster, EDD Coordinator Alicia Vennos, and Supervisors Byng Hunt and Hap Hazard, called it “a good first dialogue … better meeting face to face than hearing things from the dais.”
With MMSA looking to downgrade its participation in summer service (and fall as well), the County had been facing as much as a $215,000 obligation (perhaps more) to be a 1/3 stakeholder, though Little opined that, “The price of admission isn’t necessarily $215,000.” What frustrates him, he said, is the Board’s general position that business needs to do more. “Some don’t pull their weight, perhaps, but most work 3-4 months a year for 100 hours a week to make things happen,” he pointed out.
Air service subsidies, he conceded, are a tough sell now, and not the “end all and be all” of marketing, but a “valuable piece of the puzzle.” He suggested the Board’s strategy should be more long term. “It’s more than just Transient Occupancy Tax, it’s also about the jobs that are created,” he pointed out.
“I’d like to see it continue,” commented District 4 Supervisor Tim Hansen, who reminded the Commission he favored the $45,000 subsidy while a candidate for the seat. “I’d like to see more expansion into John Wayne and San Diego, since a lot of our visitors come from down that way.” Even with a recently enacted plan to zero out losses in the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund and savings from not filling the Public Works Director job, Hansen tempered his remarks by observing that the Board is under $1 million in its reserves, the County is in search of a full-time County Administrative Officer and faces a very precarious state budget situation. “And the folks in District 4 don’t think they get much out of air service,” he added.
Perhaps not now, Little agreed, but he indicated there’s “tremendous possibility” to be realized if opportunities such as air service are capitalized on properly. There is, he suggested, only so much businesses and volunteers, who in effect “pay” to serve on Regional Planning Advisory Committees and commissions such as Mono Tourism, can do. “It comes down to who’s responsible, who’s going to make it happen,” he stated. “We’ve got to do something and soon, or we’ll end up with nothing but a county full of ghost towns.”
Recovery from a “Train” wreck
Summer scheduling is always hard. Mono County invariably has something going on every weekend, and last year the June Lake Mountain Music Festival endured what co-organizer Abigail Ross referred to as a “Train” wreck. The JLMMF scheduled its Saturday night shows against the Mammoth Wine Festival in August. Mammoth’s headliner, Train, pulled a huge audience, leaving the June festival to struggle with attendance.
This year, the festival has moved its dates to the end of July opposite Villagefest, which Ross and festival producer Amber Tamblyn hope will prove more balanced for both events. (Pink Froyd is playing Villagefest … not the same crowd.)
The Mountain Music Festival has proven to be a solid (if smaller) draw, increasing its attendance and artist interest every year. Tamblyn said this year she has more bands than available slots. “I hate to say ‘no,’ but I may have to this year,” Tamblyn told the Commission.
Ross said the 4-day festival plans to stage multiple bands at multiple venues during morning, afternoon and evening, with at least 36-40 acts that might be on the bill. Ross and Tamblyn plan to market the festival from Reno to Los Angeles, and even into the Yosemite Valley. The festival runs July 28-31. Keep up with the latest on tickets, artists and venues at: www.junelakemusic.com and on Facebook at June Lake Mountain Music Festival.
Mueller: more local kids fishing
Mono Council for the Arts founder Gaye Mueller, who also oversees the Kids Fishing Festival, is seeking to lure more attendees to this year’s event, scheduled for July 30 at the Snowcreek ponds off Old Mammoth Road.
Mueller, who made a Local Program Funding Request on Tuesday, informed the Commission that the program has proven popular with mainly out of town attendees. According to her data from last year, most of the 410 registrations were from Southern California, about 10 were from Ridgecrest and none were from Inyo County.
Funding requests are typically not given out to events as long-standing as the Kids Fishing Festival, but Mueller qualifies under an exemption for new producers of older events. MCA took over the event last year. She was seeking $2,000 in out-of-town advertising support in addition to another $2,000 in local marketing efforts granted by the Mono Fisheries Commission and $2,000 in donations, which help defray production costs.
Mueller said highlights this year include a return of the Department of Fish and Game’s “Fishing in the City Program” and the County’s Fishing Passport program, which helps young anglers discover and learn about Mono’s fishing hotspots. New this year: the DFG’s “Game Warden” trailer and “laser shot” activity. Mueller said she also plans to renew her partnership with the Eastern Sierra Fishing Guides Association, which will include fly-fishing.
She also anticipates having a fine art component and arts fair featuring several out-of-county artists, as well as possibly having Conway Ranch staff on hand to promote north county fishing.
Look for more cross promotion this year by Mammoth Lakes Tourism in an effort to more equitably spread awareness of the many events going on area-wide on any given weekend. According to Mueller, MLT Director John Urdi is reportedly working to address that problem, a major gripe of event promoters during past years.