Marketing district awards $77,900 in grants

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ALAMOSA — Funding annual events such as Summerfest on the Rio and Early Iron, the Alamosa County Local Marketing District awarded a total of $77,900 in grants to 32 applicants during their meeting on Thursday. The submission deadline was March 1 and approval is based on how well the event demonstrates economic impact by drawing in tourists.

Two separate taxes collected from reserved hotel rooms, called the Marketing District Tax and Lodging Tax, are used to fund the grants. In 2017 the district collected $489,796.55 from the 4 percent Marketing District Tax and $244,702.76 from the 1.9 percent Lodging Tax.

The event grant program was budgeted to not exceed $47,000, capping grants at roughly $2,500, but if an organization’s ask was larger, the board allocated funds designated for convention support or business development to cover some or all of the remaining amount. Some applicants weren’t awarded any event grant funds but will receive what they asked for from a different source.

For instance, San Luis Valley Regional Airport Manager Dustin Allinger applied for a grant to hire a marketing consultant even though that ask is not tied to a specific event. Knowing that a well-marketed airport brings tourists to the events that presented their requests throughout the evening, the board expressed their support but didn’t technically award a grant. The $9,500 will instead come from the district’s business development funds.

“There’s a natural synergy between a hotel bed tax and trying to improve the accessibility of transportation,” said board member Matt Abbey. “That passes the ‘Duh’ test for me.”

Due to budgetary constraints, 32 of a record 33 applicants received $41,000 less than the total $118,900 requested. To compare, 22 organizations received roughly $54,000 last year.

Sports were a major theme of the night, with 10 applicants receiving a total of $28,000. The money went to the Splashland Triathlon, Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area’s Hispano Heroes wrestling event, the upcoming 50-year Olympic running trials reunion at Adams State University and various tournaments.

Music-related applicants were granted a total of $6,500. The Society Hall fundraiser will get $2,500 of that and Alamosa Live Music Association’s Sundays at Six was awarded $2,000. A new month-long concert series, called Sweet Street Sounds for Lower Downtown, was awarded $500 for their weekend street performances.

The Art Walk, Artscape program and Chalk-a-Walk—a chamber of commerce event—are planned for the same weekend in September. The Art Walk and Artscape were awarded $1,000 and $2,000, respectively. Board member Liz Thomas-Hensley, who is also on Alamosa city council, abstained from voting on the Artscape and Rio Frio Ice Fest since those are city-run events.

Another art-focused event, the Valley Art Show that will occur in May, was awarded $1,000.

Only a couple of applicants said that their event wouldn’t happen without the grant money from the district. Julie Mordecai, director of the Rio Grande Farm Park, asked for funding to host Denver-based James Beard Award winning author Adrian Miller for a farm-to-table dinner. The dinner would cost $50 a plate, max out at 100 guests and feature a menu made by Miller utilizing food grown at the farm. Miller has a $2,500 honorarium for speaking and signing events and Mordecai said they wouldn’t book him without the $3,000 requested.

Abbey, who asked every applicant if their event would go on without the grant, did not like that the board was the only source of money. “I’m all for farm-to-table and a great dinner, but I felt a little put upon.”

Board member Jeff Owsley was not in favor of giving them less than what was requested.

“I’m thinking we’re cutting quite a bit from the whole idea of ag tourism,” he said. “That’s an important part of our mix for tourism in the future and I worry about cutting it out too much. The guy could really bring people into the Valley, which is what we’re trying to do.”

Hensley preferred giving more money to San Luis Valley Local Food Coalition’s sixth annual harvest festival, which will be completely free to public for the first time this year.

“I think they can get $2,000 more in sponsorships if they really wanted to do this and since it’s exclusive I feel like they could charge more for the tickets,” she said. “If it’s kind of an elite type of dinner, then the elite people can pay the extra...I rather support the event that’s more for everybody.”

In the end each event was awarded $1,000. The Alamosa Farmers’ market, the only other agriculture-related applicant, received $1,500.

Funds are distributed 30 days before the function occurs. If an event is cancelled then the grant is not awarded.