One festival has received advertising funds from the Thomson-McDuffie Convention and Visitors Bureau this year, but three others were turned down. And the reasons behind the decisions were not in black and white.
For the past six months, coming up with guidelines for distributing advertising funds to local organizations and events has been on the Thomson-McDuffie CVB's agenda at all monthly meetings. Discussions have taken place, but no plan has been devised.
"It's not just about giving out money, it's about letting everybody know about the opportunity. They should know how much is available and if they qualify. It shouldn't matter who they are when they walk in the door," said Elizabeth Vance, director of the Thomson-McDuffie CVB.
In the past, event organizers would come to CVB board meetings, make a presentation of their event and request money. The board would immediately vote on an amount. Through the years, it became apparent the board didn't know how that money was being used and how much they were spending. It made creating and sticking to an annual budget difficult, and Mrs. Vance said that affected her ability to apply for certain state grants.
In March, Chamber of Commerce President Angela Blair attended the meeting and requested funds for the Denim and Diamonds concert slated for April. Board members felt the request was too late to allow adequate advertising to out-of-town tourists, and decided to table all grants until an application process with guidelines could be approved.
The next month, Don Powers who heads the Blind Willie Blues Festival, requested funds for the festival in May. The CVB board voted to write the Blues Festival a check for $5,000 with the acknowledgment that no money would be given to smaller events. The Dearing Mayfest was specifically mentioned in that discussion.
Mrs. Vance said she later received a phone call from Chris Smith of the Old Frontier requesting financial help to advertise the rodeo they had booked. Mrs. Vance told him the funds had been put on hold until the board could create a program.
"We need to make it a little bit more than just a random act," board chairwoman Michelle Zupan said at the April meeting. "Every CVB has caps and criteria for the grants."
Almost every CVB uses a mini-grant-application process for distributing funds, said Jeannie Buttrum, the regional tourism representative for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Ms. Buttrum, who is an ex-officio for the Thomson-McDuffie CVB, said surrounding counties have an application deadline for events and organizations to send their requests, and many have a reimbursable-type grant that requires a final report with receipts.
A committee of three volunteers was formed in April, but has not yet met, on creating a grant-application process to fit the CVB's needs and mission.
Mrs. Vance said the availability of funds continues to be on hold until some guidelines and a process can be created and approved by the board.