The Fremont County Tourism Board reviewed five grant applications at their April meeting, granting three of them completely, one partially and denying one, for a total of $9,750 in grants awarded.
Southwest Iowa Development Corp requested $750 for advertising the annual Fremont County 3D Archery Tournament, The Nodding Ham. The Nodding Ham will be held at the Fremont County Archery Range and Campground in Sidney on August 21. The board approved this application for $750 unanimously, with member Sandy Parmenter abstaining from the vote as the representative for Southwest Iowa Development Corp.
Sidney Hometown Pride submitted a grant application for $1,000 for advertising the Sidney Rodeo Parade. The Rodeo Parade will be held on the Saturday of Rodeo Week, August 7. Tourism Board Chairman Chuck Douglass reminded the others the board has normally given $1,000 maximum for city events like this or Popcorn Day, Randolph Fun Day, etc. The board members approved this request for $1,000 unanimously.
The Tabor Historical Society requested the annual budget allocation of $3,000 they usually receive from the tourism board in support of the Rev. John Todd House Museum. This funding is used to help preserve and maintain the Todd House Museum, a documented station on the Underground Railroad. The board approved this application for $3,000 unanimously, with Douglass abstaining from the vote as the representative for the Tabor Historical Society.
The Mt. Zion Cemetery Association submitted a request for $2,500 for use toward a contract to digitize the cemetery map and paper and postage for the cemetery association newsletter. According to their application, the cemetery association is GIS mapping the cemetery lots, so people anywhere will be able to access the cemetery plots of family members. Accuracy is supposed to be within two feet of the grave. In an application supporting letter, Vicki Kirkpatrick, Secretery/Treasurer for the Mt. Zion Cemetery Association noted that the association had been unable to hold their annual Memorial Day dinner fundraiser and their fall dinner fundraiser had been restricted, resulting in less income to the association than usual.
Board member Chris Clark noted that it was almost counter-productive to support a project that would enable people to access the cemetery without coming to Fremont County. Board members Becky Shull, Ruth Paper and Parmenter suggested they were not sure the project was really tourism generating, although all agreed it was a worthwhile project and would be a great asset to the cemetery. Parmenter noted she would almost compare it to the request for funding for doors for the fair building they had received and denied in the last cycle; a valuable improvement but not something that would draw outside tourists into the county. It was also noted that several local cemeteries had expressed interest in GIS mapping and creation of cemetery directories, and the tourism could easily spend all their money on those projects and have nothing to give to promote tourism events.
This grant application was denied unanimously.
Gold Buckle Production, Inc. requested $10,000 to advertise the Sidney Battle with the Bulls that will be held in the Sidney Rodeo Arena on Aug. 27 and 28. The funds would be used for advertising in newspapers, on the radio and on social media, and for posters and banners.
Tony Moyer and Jamie Whitehill Avey were on hand to tell the tourism board more about the event, and provide them of a summary of the success of the same event last year. Avey, who is the promotional representative was able to provide the group with statistics showing over 2,000 tickets were sold for the two day event last year, with 62% of the online ticket sales being to people from outside Fremont County.
They had created a Facebook page last year that grew from zero followers to 1,200 in just four months, and every single post saw engagement, with most reaching over 2,000 people, and one reaching 23,700 people.
Avey said they had also created a website and both the website and Facebook page included links to local organizations like the Two County Dusters, Double S Bulls, and the musical entertainment providers. Avey noted that those links were also well-travelled, so the benefit to the area and local groups was two-fold.
Avey and Moyer said they had a lot of unforeseen expenses setting the event up for the first time last year, so were starting at ground zero financially this year, but they did have signage and other items that would be reusable .
Tourism board members were in agreement that this was exactly the kind of event they wanted to help promote, and achieving the end goal of the tourism board to bring people into the county to see what was available. Paper pointed out that the flood and COVID-19 had also hit the tourism board funding hard, though, and this grant would bring the board balance to nearly zero. She asked the other members if they thought they might grant part of this request and ask Gold Buckle to apply again at the next grant cycle for additional funding.
After discussion of outstanding grant requests the board members knew or were fairly certain would be coming yet this year, the board agreed unanimously to approve $5,000 of this grant request.
Board member Sandy Parmenter updated the group about the Western Iowa Tourism Region membership they had recently paid for. Parmenter had been asked to discover what representation the tourism board and Fremont County as a whole received from this membership.
Parmenter reported that she had called Shirley Phillips, executive director of Western Iowa Tourism Region, and been told the fee is usually paid by the county, but some of them do pay it through their tourism boards. Phillips said the Fremont County representative listed was the Fremont County Welcome Center. Parmenter told the others she had asked what benefits the county received and been told representation on the website and Facebook, and in any promotional booklets created. Members are also able to attend conferences that come up at various locations throughout the year, but still have to pay fees to attend. Parmenter said she had looked at the website and it looked like very few of Fremont County attractions and assets were listed.
Board member Clark suggested if the Welcome Center was the listed representative for Fremont County, the cost of the membership and any conference attendance should come from their budget, rather than the Tourism Board budget. The other group members agreed, and Parmenter was asked to talk to the Fremont County Board of Supervisors about making that change.
The next grant cycle and meeting will be held in July.