Additions for midsummer’s night scene
Come July 15, a passing look at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival may demonstrate how special events mean more than costumes, food booths and entertainment.
The most successful special events represent the fabric of the community, according to four panelists of event organizers gathered at Incline Village on Tuesday evening at the 2004 SMG Lake Tahoe Tourism Conference.
“The importance of community support is critical – not only in generating ticket sales but in generating excitement,” said panelist Vicki McGowen, chairwoman of the Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor.
The 30-year-old event, a third of that under the current organization, boasts a doubling of its attendance to 11,000 in a decade. A quarter of these people come from the South Shore. In 2001, “the economy went south, but we didn’t see a loss,” she said.
In comparison, the Outdoor Drama and Festival Association reported double-digit losses from events staged nationwide.
“We think flat is encouraging,” McGowen said.
The old English tradition is constantly evolving, adding this year wine tasting, caviar, Italian food along with Chinese and sushi offerings from the Waterwheel restaurant at Stateline.
“The one thing I think we’ve done well is listen to our patrons,” she said.
This can be a learning experience. When musical acts were absent at the lakeshore site, the regulars requested they return.
“We’re looking at bringing them back,” she told the crowd of about 200 tourism professionals.
Michael Houghton, president of the Reno Air Racing Association, said his longtime event strayed from Business 101 techniques one year and paid for it.
“We served horrible food. We almost killed people,” he quipped as the audience laughed.
But no event can expect to nail a success in the first year, he told the group.
“You have to invest a year to establish yourself,” he said.
More than 2,500 volunteers later, the association foundation donates to educational groups and conducts community outreach on a regular basis.
“We can’t survive without local support,” he said.
That’s precisely what the Lake Tahoe Gay and Lesbian Foundation plans to do with its Winter Party scheduled in 2005, panelist and foundation President David Ewing told conference attendees.
He pledged to provide more than lip service to customer service. The board intends to hire an experienced coordinator to run the show, which will expand into accompanying local parties.
“We’re sensitive to the fact that we want community involvement,” Ewing said, particularly pointing out the gay and lesbian community as a marketing segment that’s been “underserved.”
Loyalty can go a long way in terms of repeat business.
“I think the most successful events are those having a wide cross reference of appeal,” he said.
Ditto, said Carol Anne Giustina of On Course Events.
She advocated events, in her case running action sports and entertainment related, that extend its reach to the locals, too. It’s up to the producer, which sometimes can mean the difference between success or failure.
“We want to bring events that the community will enjoy – not just the tourists,” she said. “And don’t be afraid to take a chance.”
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org