CTo comment further upon Dawn Vereuck’s letter to the editor regarding event funding which appears on page four, and to follow up on Tim Gorman’s coverage of the same topic from the Feb. 20 Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting …
$125,000 has been doled out in special events funding for 2019. This is down approximately 10% from the $138,500 distributed in 2018.
Events funded in 2018 but not funded in 2019:
Kamikaze Bike Games. $15,000 last year. No event this year.
Events funded in 2019 but not funded in 2018:
Mammoth Ultra Marathon. $5,000. A Mammoth Resorts event.
Footloose Freedom Mile. $1,500.
Mammoth Lakes Youth Hockey Classic. $1,500
Mammoth Biathlon. $1,500.
Backcountry Games. $5,000. This is a John Rea-promoted event which is scheduled for March, 2020.
Mammoth Film Festival. $10,000.
Ongoing event funding was awarded for the following:
Mammoth Yoga Festival, Bluesapalooza, Mammoth Gran Fondo, Oktoberfest, Margarita Fest, Reggae Fest, Villagefest, Kids Fishing Fest, Jazz by the Creek, Mammoth Jazz, Mammoth Rocks, Rock ‘n Rye, Village Summer Jam
As Gorman reported last week, Mammoth’s Labor Day Arts Festival was among the events not funded.
According to Kristin Reese of the Mono Arts Council, “Reese and the selection committee sat down in closed session to discuss why MAC was snubbed. Reese was told that because her event is long-standing and profitable, and because that profit goes directly to MAC’s programming, the event funding would essentially be going directly to fund programming, which is Measure U’s job.”
But then, why was the Gran Fondo given $12,500? It’s a long-standing event. It’s profitable. It’s run as a fundraiser for the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation, and the money raised gets plowed back into Foundation programming.
How are the events different? Why was one funded, and one not?
Caroline Casey, the new Events Coordinator hired away from Mammoth Mountain last year by Mammoth Lakes Tourism – sat on the allocation committee. At Mammoth Resorts, one of her babies was the Gran Fondo, which she coordinated. She is also the local President of Eastside Velo Cycling Club.
It doesn’t look good.
Appearances aside, perhaps it was the correct decision. After all, the Labor Day Arts Festival, due to the agreement signed by MLT with Sam’s Wood Site property owner Dirk Winter, gives the MAC free rent for its event at the Wood Site. And the town spent $300,000 to secure the site for ten years. So the MAC, in its own way, has received a gift of funds for its event.
The issue, really, appears to be twofold.
1.) The composition of the Allocations Committee is, to be blunt, incestuous. You’ve got the MLT Executive Director (Urdi), his employee (Casey), and Chamber of Commerce Director Ken Brengle (also essentially Urdi’s employee. MLT provides office space for Chamber employees as well as pays their salaries). That’s three of five seats.
It’s unreasonable to expect MLT employees to objectively weigh in on the relative merits of events sponsored by MLT Board members as well as Mammoth Mountain.
And honestly, it’s unfair to the MLT Board members themselves, because the events they sponsor would very likely get funded no matter who sat on that committee.
The simple fix is to find five smart, independent people to do the job, and none of them should work for MLT.
Some ideas: Joanie Schaller, Silver Chesak, Tom Cage, Lori Michelon, Joe/John Mueller, Cheryl Witherill and even that rabble-rouser Dawn Vereuck … and if you want some public sector types, Stu Brown, Alicia Vennos and maybe convince Tawni Thomson to drive up from Bishop. In short, there are lots of folks out there who could be given the parameters, sit down for an afternoon and knock it out.
2.) Mark Deeds is right. In Gorman’s story, he talks about event funding being stagnant for the past three or four years, at a time when the Great Oz has increased room tax revenue 873%. (Slight exaggeration, but I’m sure statistics could be presented …)
Event funding should have been $165,000 this year, $200,000 in 2020 and $240,000 in 2021.
And yes, those would be marketing dollars coming out of MLT’s budget.
Not only would that motivate current and potential events producers to be more aspirational, it would also light a fire under the new Events Coordinator. If you’re gonna hire someone to do a job, give them some resources to work with. Otherwise, she’s gonna spend even more time putting together her very thorough weekly calendars. And as Benham and Gorman can attest, it doesn’t take a Senior Manager to let you know who’s playing Rafters on Saturday night.
Oh somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright, / The band is playing somewhere, and somwhere hearts are light; / And somehwere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, / BECAUSE THERE IS JOY IN MUDVILLE–THE MIGHTY CASEY HAS DOUBLED TO RIGHT CENTER, SCORING GRAN FONDO ALL THE WAY FROM FIRST.
… with apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer for the alternate ending