Monday, July 01, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Support FestiVille

Our traveling correspondent Rick Kron reports the latest from the festival beat:

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce got out of the festival business two years ago, stating it was too costly and involved too much work. So after a one-year gap, the city’s parks and recreation department picked up the festival idea and came up with last weekend’s FestiVille.

The department earned an A for effort, but the outcome was a much lower grade.

But the question comes back to where was the Jacksonville chamber? Amy Mattison, the head of the chamber, simply said the chamber wasn’t asked.

Wasn’t asked?

Since when does the chamber have to be asked, invited, requested or cajoled into helping with a citywide event?

In all the years that the chamber ran the festival, it gained a ton of expertise that would have helped the parks department avoid some of last weekend’s mistakes.

 Now someone else said the chamber’s job is to focus on economic development, and that is true. But helping with citywide events puts the Jacksonville name out in pubic in a positive vein. The chamber did very little publicity for the event — not even a booth handing out pencils, fans and other Jacksonville souvenirs — and had it rallied its members to participate, the festival would have scored a much bigger hit. The chamber should have put this great divide it has with city officials aside and joined forces for the good of Jacksonville. Instead the gap has just widened—and developers and businesses do look at the political climate and relationships within a city — and Jacksonville’s is troubling.

The chamber was not the only important entity missing.

Where were the advertising and promotion commission, most of the aldermen and the major businesses in town? Where were Little Rock Air Force Base and the schools?

Again, they may not have been asked, but someone should have stepped up and said, “Hey, how can we help? How can we be involved?”

With all the restaurants in town, there should have been a Ronald McDonald, a Little Caesar or the Wendy’s girl running around the festival grounds handing out coupons good only at Jacksonville eateries.

The A&P commission, which funneled thousands of dollars into the festival, should have had a booth handing out information and Jacksonville coupons.

One of the local banks could have sponsored a sand pile money dig for children.

A school band or two should have performed. Political leaders should have spoken onstage about the great plans for the city or at least visited with vendors and customers as aldermen Barbara Mashburn and Mary Twitty did. Mayor Gary Fletcher was there Saturday afternoon and his secretary was a volunteer on Friday.

Everyone knew this was uncharted territory for the parks and recreation department and those in the know should have stepped forward whether asked or not.

There’ll be another FestiVille, and one can only hope festivalgoers won’t have to cross a great divide to get to the events.