During the balmy summer of 1970, I attended the first two concerts of my life. I was in high school and one of a cadre of teenagers who chased music all of the time. That summer, our gang of four, led by a buddy, saw Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Mountain, Ten Years After, Alice Cooper, Grand Fund Railroad and Bob Seger among others.
Yeah, I was part of the counter culture even in high school. I’m glad I started early because my infatuation with all things hippy ended as fast as it started.
Since Chesterfield began calculating the impact of national sports events held a number of times each year, I’ve wondered what kind of monetary outcome a large concert would have on a community in those days. The problem was that the kids didn’t sleep in hotels; they slept on the roof of their Volkswagen minibus. They camped in parking lots, lived nearby or crashed at the homes of their friends nearby and ate very inexpensively. It was likely that the concert promoter was one of few that cashed in on the event.
Chesterfield is becoming a destination for regional, national and even international sports tournaments, and Chesterfield often celebrates the amount of money these events bring to the community. I’m not sure how amounts like $1 or $2 million is quantified. But at some point I will make an effort to find out. Every locality is interested in bringing income to their businesses, and taxes to their administration’s coffers; to allow for the expansion of services for the general populace or to pump back into future and expanded events.
While our historic resources lag behind and preservation of historic houses has been under attack, there has been an effort to save major sites such as the Point of Rocks and the Strachen house, which played a part in local and national history. They are excruciating to finance. To raise some funds to stabilize the Strachen house project, leaders have had to become part of the “Amazing Raise.”
Many towns or larger jurisdictions want to be a destination location. Consider Winchester and apples, Orange County and Virginia wine or Suffolk and peanuts.
After the ChesterFest event, presented by the Chester Community Association (CCA), last week I wondered how much money the Fest contributed to the local economy, $2, $5, $10 million. I think it did contribute in a bigger way than some might imagine.
Let’s not forget that Chesterfield was one of the top sponsors; but mark my word, there will be no celebration about how much money it contributed to the local economy.
Start with the event itself. Many businesses were part of the rows of tents that lined the streets last Saturday. Businesses at the Fest attracted customers to the event, with record attendance, to spend their money at crafters booths; food vendors, if you could get through the lines of the six or seven food providers, as well as, businesses handing out coupons or collecting contact information for future clients or gaining community goodwill by sponsoring the event. How do you calculate the contribution to the economy of the county and the enjoyment it offered to local residents?
Many craft vendors came from as far away as North Carolina or Maryland with some staying at local hotels. Half the food booths bought supplies locally and bought fuel for gas cookers locally. The Chester Community Association sold several hundred dollars of Fest tee shirts. Churches gained members, as did other organizations and political parties gained votes.
So what kind of bump did Chesterfield get from a community organized event, which has become one of the largest in the county?
As a volunteer, I spent time in the days before picking up last minute supplies, banners and copies of brochures. I wasn’t alone, other volunteers of the Community Association were doing the same. I ran into others who were buying supplies for the Chester celebration. Rental companies also made some money, and many local businesses had to have gotten a bit of a bounce either on the day of or soon after. Last year, businesses in the immediate area of ChesterFest reported record sales.
Sponsors who helped the event with their contributions, in cash or in-kind, got a public relations bump. How do you quantify that?
The organizers (CCA) tried to figure it out. They took the number of booths, cut off at 130 (150 last year) plus food vendors and multiplied by average per family spending of $50. That equals $100,000, and I think that’s a low estimate. Buying lunch for four, maybe a chaky for the kids and a necklace for mom, a family could exceed $50 or a family could spend just a few dollars. Contradictory? Yes. But the point is the event is more than a somewhere to walk around. I think it promotes the Chester Village Green as the center of Chester and the few retail and business there but all of Chester and surrounding areas.
Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle spent most of the day at the event and complimented the CCA for its effort. It’s a good lesson for those who would discount Chester.