Events succeeded in bringing people to downtown, organizers say [Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla. :: ]
(Highlands Today (Sebring, FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 19--SEBRING -- For most downtown store owners, there's simply not enough time to operate their businesses and plan events, said Beverly Branam, owner of Galleria 301.
But, at the same time, she said, such events can bring needed customers to the downtown areas.
"We need more events," she said.
Last year, Casey Wohl, who does marketing for the Community Redevelopment Agency and the downtown, and Lora Todd, who has organized other events, combined efforts and convinced the Sebring City Council to provide funding assistance for six events to help meet that need.
Last week, Sebring City Council members were generally complimentary of the efforts.
City Council President John Griffin said he's undecided as to whether taxpayer money should be used in the future to support such events. He said the city is not providing funding for festivals that would help businesses on U.S. 27.
Griffin said Todd and Wohl did a good job in putting the events together and that some events were more successful than others. He questions whether the area population is sufficient to support two-day events, such as the Fourth of July event.
Todd and Wohl said they plan to submit next month a proposal for events during the upcoming year. They said they believe they can fine-tune what they did last year, although they feel the events were successful.
"I think it's something to build on," Todd said
Changes would include moving the event surrounding Mother's Day to the weekend before and reducing the holiday festival to less than a full month, Wohl said. She added that some of the components of that festival that were held during different weekends could be held the same weekend.
Another possible change would be to reduce the Fourth of July event from two days to one, she said.
Wohl said they got a positive feedback on adding a ball event to the Roaring '20s Festival.
Such events help make the downtown a destination, Branam said.
Ronald Thomas, owner of Captain Ron's Mercantile Store, said that every event other than the Red White and Blues Festival helped him, as the Fourth of July event was held near Lake Jackson.
"They didn't do anything to draw people to the circle," he said.
Thomas also said he was disappointed the Armadillo Festival was canceled.
Will Lovett, a realtor at Heartland Real Estate, said he also felt the festivals helped.
"Anytime you get more people on the sidewalks, businesses are going to benefit," he said.
For the real estate business, Lovett said, the benefits can be delayed as someone may walk in, get information and then return days or weeks later.
"We did meet people interested in buying and selling property during some of these events," he added.
Rich Strzelewicz, owner of Heartland Band Supply, said the holiday festival proved to be the most beneficial.
He said events are good for downtown, but adding a lot of events isn't necessarily the answer.
"We need to be smart about the events we are having," he said.
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