Blythewood Chamber receives $7,000 for Total Eclipse of the Park Weekend

BLYTHEWOOD – After the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Switzer received $1,750 in A-Tax funds to cover the costs of organizing a ‘Moondoggle’ Battle of the Bands in Doko Park Aug. 21 to celebrate the eclipse, Switzer was back Monday night asking Council for an additional $7,000 that he said the Chamber will use to fund a three-night Total Eclipse of the Park event on Aug. 18, 19, and 20 that the Chamber will charge an entry fee for.

The three events will happen the weekend prior to the eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21.

Switzer told Council the weekend would include the Blythewood Jazz Orchestra on Friday evening, eclipse-related movies and food vendors on Saturday evening and more movies and the Lion’s Club Night for Sight on Sunday evening. He said the Moondoggle Battle of the Bands, which is free to the public, will wrap things up Monday.

“Our idea is to present the whole weekend as a Total Eclipse of the Park,” Switzer said. “We’re only asking for enough from the Town to cover the costs, to get the bands, to get the screens, the projectors, the movie rights, and some promotional activities and that’s it,” Switzer said.

Bravo Blythewood was originally slated for an event in the park on Friday Aug. 18, but Mayor J. Michael Ross told Council that Bravo Blythewood ditched those plans after he asked them to assist the town with the amphitheater grand opening.

“We just feel like with this facility available, up and running, and we have the event of a lifetime,” Switzer said. Normally, these matters would be presented to the A-Tax Committee before coming to Council, but due to the short time frame for organizing the events it was decided that Council would skip that phase of approval.

“We like it to go through our A-Tax committee for every event, but this one coming up we told them to go ahead and put this on our agenda and let us deal directly with it,” Ross said.

Switzer said the Chamber has also decided to charge for the three weekend events, charging maybe a couple of dollars per person for entry to the park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. He said the Chamber would then donate all the proceeds to a different organization each night. He said proceeds will be disbursed to the Park Foundation for Friday Night’s event, The Farmer’s Market for Saturday night and the Lion’s Club for Sunday night.

Switzer said the Chamber will spend $1,900 of the $7,000 on social media advertising, banners, flyers and other marketing items to draw in what the Chamber estimates to be 3,000 potential attendees.

Councilman Tom Utroska questioned the effectiveness of the money the Chamber says it is spending on advertising.

“I spoke to two of the hotels today and identified myself and asked them how their bookings looked for the weekend of the eclipse. They were unaware that the town was hosting the Moondoggle event. That’s not very good advertising. We approved $1,750 a month ago out of the A-Tax fund for that and it eludes me as to how as small a town as this is, both of the major hotels don’t know enough to tell people this,” he said.

“If we can’t get it out to local people I don’t know how we’re going to get 3,000 other folks to come in for three days,” Utroska said.

Aside from the advertising costs, Switzer said the fees for movie projector, screen and sound would run $2,800. The rights to broadcast the films would cost the town another $800.

Those numbers did not set well with Utroska either.

“In talking to the people up in Winnsboro, they pay $800 a night for their movie nights, unless it’s a premium movie, then they pay $1,000 and they use Swank Movie Productions or Funflix out of Cacey,” Utroska said,“ Theirs is up to $2,000 for two nights and yours is $2800 plus $800 for rights.”

Ross said the Chamber is looking into getting sponsorships from AT&T and Chick-Fil-A, and that if those come to fruition, the Chamber would refund to the Town whatever portion of the $7,000 that the sponsorships were to cover. ‘If the sponsorships would come through and they would give you a thousand, then you would refund what you had asked for that you thought would be an expense for y’all,” Ross said.

Council will withhold 20 percent of the funds until a final even report is submitted by the Chamber and reviewed by the Town.

Council voted 4-1 to award $7,000 to the Chamber with Utroska voting against.