Fiddling around downtown

After a one year hiatus, a 19 year Ozarks tradition might continue. If the plan presented by Dawn Erickson, Executive Director, Downtown Main Street Association (DBMA) and Bill Lennon at the most recent meeting of the Branson Board of Aldermen is accepted by the board, the 19 year tradition of having a fiddle contest in downtown Branson will extend to 20 years and possibly beyond.

As presented, the plan calls for five organizations to work together to put the event on, DBMA, the Historic Downtown Branson Business Owners (HDBBO), the Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Branson Landing, and the city of Branson. The event, which will include the fiddle contest, will be called a Fiddle Festival and will be held on August 23. It will be an all encompassing downtown event with the actual contest being held in Branson Landing and different fiddle groups performing throughout the historic downtown district during the day. To add to the appeal of the event a pie contest is also being added.

As presented by Erickson, the operating budget for the Fiddle Festival will be about $13,000. It includes about $5,000 for prizes, $5,000 in other costs for judges, tents, etc. and $3,000 in value furnished by Branson Landing for sound equipment, production, and rental.

Erickson asked the board to consider allocating the amount of $11,600 from the Tourism Tax Contingency Fund to be used to market and promote the event. Of that amount $10,000 would be used to promote and market the event and $1,600 would be used to pay for the live entertainment.

After Erickson’s presentation, Bill Lennon, who produces events at Branson Landing, made a presentation. He said that one of the cornerstones of the Fiddle Festival will be the tie in of the historic downtown Branson district into the event by having four groups of fiddlers playing in the historic downtown area during the day of the festival. In addition, Lennon said, “The DBMA and members of the HDBBO have offered their manpower, experience and historical insight into the successes and challenges of the past contests and they have offered to solicit sponsorships to cover the costs that the Landing can’t cover.”

Lennon also outlined some of the key changes that will take place this year. One major change is that there will be no charge to attend the festival, people can come and go as they want. In addition the fiddle contest awards will be named to help in promoting the history and heritage the Ozarks, area businesses, and to help in the solicitation of funding. As an example, Lennon pointed out that the Branson Scenic Railway was planning on being an award sponsor and would blow the train’s whistle when its award was presented.

Lennon stressed that one of the major incentives for people participating in the festival is a top notch marketing campaign. He said, “The use of city funds to finance a thorough and imaginative effort by the professionals at the Branson Chamber [CVB] is another key to both the success of this event and to the ability to raise sponsorship funds from our local businesses.” Lennon also said that if the festival went well this year it could be expanded into a three day festival with possible national appeal next year.

After Lennon’s presentation there was some concern expressed about using city tourism tax funds for providing live entertainment. DBMA is going to revise the request to accommodate those concerns. Alderman Stan Barker’s comments seemed to pretty well sum up the boards feeling about participating in the Fiddle Contest. He said he was supportive of the event and likes the way it blends the new and the old of downtown together.

Mayor Raeanne Presley said, “We’ll pledge to work as hard as we can as fast as you can get any information to us.” The report was accepted and City Attorney Paul D. Link was directed to draft up an agreement, after receiving the revised information from DBMA, for presentation to the board.

Furnished Courtesy of the Branson Daily Independent.