South Jacksonville Hears Proposals For Tourism Grants From Two of Morgan County’s Major Events Organizations

By Benjamin Cox on March 17, 2023 at 3:47pm

The Village of South Jacksonville heard proposals from two of the area’s largest summer events Thursday night at their monthly committee of the whole meeting.

President of the Morgan County Fair Association Gary Hadden asked for a tourism grant from the village trustees for $30,000. It’s the largest tourism grant the village hands out annually.

Hadden says that the village receives promotion for the fair’s truck & tractor pull, demo derby, and rodeo: “Those are the 3 events that we geared your funding for to help promote that. Plus, those are the folks that are bringing the trailers and that fits into your hotel/motel areas. On a side note, I think [the village] gets some definite carry over I guess from the concert side of things with the amount of people we have coming in on Saturday night last year. We had at least 10,000 people on the grounds…maybe up to 12,000. I know that generated a lot of people coming in from 24 different states, according to our ticketing software that we use. We definitely had people coming in from all over that was staying for the complete weekend.”

Hadden says an economic impact study on the fair done in conjunction with the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau showed that the fair, over the last 3 previous years, has generated about $3 million in local revenue each year.

Jacksonville Main Street Executive Director Judy Tighe and 2023 Main Street Executive Board President Liz Tracy piggy-backed on Hadden’s ideas about bringing people from all across the region to the Jacksonville area for the summer with the Downtown Concert Series.

Tighe says they are asking for $1,000 more this year due to rising expenses and the increased costs that traveling entertainment is facing: “The port-a-potty costs have doubled. Everyone’s transportation costs, the band fees…all of it has gone up at a higher percentage than the inflation rate. So, we are just trying to play catch up.”

Tighe says Main Street needs to order new decals, logos, and labels this year due to trouble with printing and advertisements to match the re-brand done by Jacksonville’s economic partners. Tighe says the 2022 concert series saw record numbers, but due to the series being a free event, she could not given an exact number in attendance. She says that many volunteers reported conversations with crowd members who had come from out of state to stay and see the bands over the summer.

Tracy says that Downtown Jacksonville’s turnaround has also had some reason for increased traffic at the village’s hotels: “I think also the development downtown on [Jacksonville’s] square is bringing more and more reasons to stay in South Jacksonville and Jacksonville. Now, there’s more to do than to just stay for a 2-hour concert. You want to be a part of this community. You want to stay for the weekend or stay for the night. Hopefully that will promote and bring more visitors to your hotels, as well.”

Both tourism grants were placed on the April action item list for the trustees to finalize at next month’s official board meeting.