RiverFest numbers up in 2014, planners say

Published 11:15 am Friday, June 27, 2014

More people attended RiverFest in April than did last year’s event, due in part to a second year of reduced ticket prices compared to previous festivals in the event’s 27-year history, organizers said Thursday.

About 10,000 people attended the two-day music and arts extravaganza downtown, organization vice president David Sharp said, up from the approximately 7,000 the RiverFest board reported to tourism promotion officials in 2013 for the previous staging.

“We had a phenomenal year, as opposed to the year prior,” Sharp told members of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau as the event’s vital statistics were recapped. In 2013, tickets for the event were cut in half, to $10, to draw more locals to the festival and feature regional, and less expensive, musical acts. The lower ticket price appeared to draw more people this past time out, Sharp said.

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“It gave people more of an interest to come down,” Sharp said. “A lot more people locally came down than what I’ve seen in the past.”

Vicksburg-Warren Riverfest Inc. spent $7,224 promoting the event via the media and T-shirts, according to a sponsorship recap sheep signed by event director Christy Pecanty. The group spent $38,950 on event production, making for a $50,003.97 overall cost, and reported it met the 30 percent match set forth by the VCVB in order to be sponsored. The amount raised from ticket sales wasn’t specified on the report.

Sharp responded to questions from VCVB board members David Day, Shirley Waring and Myra Logue about the attendance, which he termed a speculation based on observation, adding organizers’ goal is to keep locals in a crowd drawn generally from central Mississippi and north Louisiana.

Separately, the bureau expects to be a part of short videos shot in the coming weeks to add tourism teasers to the city’s public access cable channel’s plans to expand to U-Verse, AT&T’s fiber optic entertainment and home communications system.

Scenes featuring the city’s bed-and-breakfasts and Vicksburg National Military Park are in the works over about six to 10 hours per month and edited into three, 30-minute segments shown periodically on TV23 during the year, executive director Bill Seratt said.

In April, the city announced it would add U-Verse to the outlets that show the channel in order to broaden city’s appeal to metro Jackson and surrounding counties. Still in the works, the addition involved buying equipment to free up bandwidth to put the channel on U-verse. Also, city officials said, it means certain commercial or promotional programming, such as ribbon-cuttings, will be cut from the channel’s lineup on U-Verse to comply with the city’s franchise agreement with AT&T as a public education and government channel, or PEG, not exclusive to Vicksburg. The designation allows other local governments or school systems can get programs on the channel.

“The calendar of events is still on 23,” Seratt said. “They have to hit a switch to transfer it to U-Verse. That will happen when there’s enough production in the can.”

Seratt touted a $227 million impact tourism has on the local economy and the hospitality industry representing 17 percent of the local workforce as reasons for the bureau’s participation. He said entertainment acts might be interviewed during the video shorts, but venues wouldn’t be mentioned to comply with the channel’s government access status.

“It’s a great opportunity to promote a very positive image and stay within the regulations of government programming,” Seratt said.