Financial fate of festivals: Federal Way invests in tourism boosters

The Han Woo-Ri festival is anticipated to get $25

The city wants festivals and community events to flourish in Federal Way, but finding a way to make this happen has been a challenge.

Festivals and community gatherings are a quality of life issue, bringing together residents and attracting tourists who spend their money in the city. For this reason, Lodging Tax Advisory Committee funding has historically been available to help seed some of the city’s festivals, most of which are put on by non-profits or other agencies.

Still, challenges remain. A support mechanism for festivals and their organizers was introduced at the city council’s Jan. 22 retreat.

“We’re trying to ensure their success,” said Patrick Doherty, community and economic development director.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee is interested in partnering with the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce to create a way to help with festivals. The details are still being ironed out, but the mechanism could include a part-time administrator to prevent duplicating efforts by festival-organizing bodies and, in turn, achieve cost savings.

For instance, many of Federal Way’s festival organizing bodies each identify their advertising needs, then seek printing seperately. An administrator could present the needs as a series of festival-themed advertisements. This could save money, as a discounted rate may be offered for the large amount of advertising where it would not be offered for a single advertisment. Another option is presenting the city’s festivals in a series of events, similar to the Safeco Insurance Festal, a series of 21 festivals hosted at the Seattle Center and sponsored by Safeco. More about support options through a city/chamber partnership will be known Feb. 15.

Suggested funding

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) has made recommendations to the city council on which festivals ought to be funded in the 2011-2012 biennium. Lodging tax money, per law, can only be used to fund events that attract tourists to the city. LTAC recommends providing funding for the following events:

• World Championship of Sand Sculpting: The event, brought to the city by the Federal Way Community Council, will take place for the second time this summer. It’s expected to receive $23,000 in lodging tax money and possibly another $5,000 to be used for a kick-off parade.

• SheROX women’s triathlon: This event is organized by the SheROX Triathlon Series and Life Time Fitness Inc. It’s an expansion of the the Subaru Women’s Triathlon. It is expected to receive $8,000 in LTAC funding.

• Han Woo-Ri: This event was first showcased by the LTAC and city in 2005 in an effort to celebrate the city’s diversity and Korean culture, Doherty said. It has since been passed on to another organizing body. Han Woo-Ri is anticipated to get $25,000 in funding.

• Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center events: These are organized by the center and host bodies such as the Seattle Sports Commission. The NCAA men’s swimming and diving championship (2012) is in line to get $30,000. The Olympic Dive Trials (2012) is expected to receive $130,000, Doherty said, and $100,000 of this is for a rights fee solicited by USA Diving.

• Buds and Blooms: This event began in 2009 with help from city staff. City staffing is no longer available to assist with the festival. Additionally, a staff person who helped organize the Buds and Blooms activities at Weyerhaeuser’s Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection is also no longer available this year. Preliminary funding of $7,500 has been set aside for Buds and Blooms. This could be adjusted by mid-February.

These and other community gatherings not funded by LTAC could potentially take advantage of the support proposed by the city and chamber of commerce. Councilman Roger Freeman and Deputy Mayor Dini Duclos are interested in a food festival. Duclos suggested pairing this with the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in an effort to keep visitors spending their money in Federal Way after they’ve viewed the sand creations.

“I want them staying,” Duclos said.

The Red, White and Blues festival and Martin Luther King activities are expected to continue, but will not receive LTAC funding because they do not generally attract tourists.

Check out a short video from the 2010 World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Federal Way: