Council questions Chamber’s and Rodeo’s event financials

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood Town Council rejected a pair of belated funding requests from two special event promoters.

Organizers of the Doko Rodeo and Doko Rib Fest Cook-off had received 80 percent funding upfront for their respective events, but their applications to receive the final 20 percent of their town event funding failed in a pair of 2-2 votes Monday night.

Councilman Rich McKenrick was absent for both votes due to a death in the family.

Organizers from each event faced pointed questions concerning their financials.

Buck Coggins, who owns the Rodeo, was awarded $25,000 in local A-Tax funding from the Town to help finance the event. Twenty thousand was awarded up front, boosting Coggin’s profit to $23,843.92. The additional 20 percent ($5,000) A-Tax final funding would bring Coggins profit to $28,843.92.

Asked about his profits, Coggins said the rodeo never previously experienced such a windfall, attributing the success to perfect weather and aggressive marketing.

Some council members, however, didn’t think the financials added up. Councilman Donald Brock questioned the rodeo’s total reported revenues.

“Mr. Coggins, you stated [6,800] people came to the Rodeo. You stated an average ticket price of $8. That number is $54,400; you reported $43,902,” Brock said. “That’s kind of where I have a problem. I understand you are a for-profit business. I’m just trying to figure out how you get to your numbers, and I can’t.”

Councilman Sloan Griffin also took note of the rodeo’s profit margin.

“When we look at events, sometimes what I struggle with is when I look at numbers that are far exceeding,” Griffin said.

Coggins argued that his only desire is to promote Blythe wood. He read from a document he said included Facebook comments from travelers who spoke favorably about the rodeo.

“I’m doing exactly what you guys asked me to do 12 years ago,” he said. “I’ve got to have your help. I’ve taken 100% of the risk. My efforts are to build up Blythewood.”

He pointed to the percentage of tourists that he said came to the Blythewood rodeo from these states: New York State, California, Delaware, Maine, Idaho, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey and South Carolina.

Asked by Brock if the attendees from those states were audience members or rodeo performers, Coggins answered, “Came through the front gate.”

Debate over Rib Fest funding grew even more contentious.

Council documents state the Rib Fest, organized by the Greater Blythewood Chamber of Commerce, received $16,000 in Hospitality Tax revenue from the Town before the event, accounting for 80 percent of the Town’s funding. Chamber Director Phil Frye’s request for the remaining $3,200 from hospitality tax funds represented the remaining 20 percent.

Citing inclement weather on Friday night of the two-day festival, Frye said the festival cost the Chamber $87,250.55, but only made $84,032.50. Even with the $3,200 hospitality tax reimbursement, the Rib Fest would finish $18 in the red, Chamber documents show.

Tensions flared when some council members couldn’t find the revenue chart in the Chamber’s event package, prompting Frye to grumble over how the town wanted the data presented.

“The problem is you say you can’t read it, but you want me to break it down. So how can we do it?” Frye said.

“I don’t see where it says ‘Revenue,’” Brock replied.

“R-E-V-E-N-U-E, right here in the top right-hand column,” Frye shot back, raising his voice.

“Confrontation isn’t going to win you any friends up here,” Brock cautioned.

As Frye became frustrated, insisting the revenue sheet was included in the packet, he finally conceded that it was not and produced it.

Brock asked for a 10-minute recess to review the documents so “cooler heads” could prevail.

After the break, Frye acknowledged submitting the Rib Fest report late blaming billing issues on Richland County EMS and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office who, he said, issued their invoices late.

Council members sympathized, but continued to question Frye’s numbers.

A motion to table the issue failed 2-2, which essentially denied the 20% funding request.

Other Business

In other business, council members received pushback from local sports organizations over potential enforcement of a $50 daily fee for non-profit sporting leagues to use the fields at Doko Park.

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said for-profit entities already pay the $50 fee while non-profit groups pay nothing.

Mayor Bryan Franklin said he thought $50 was too high for non-profits, but thought some sort of fee would be fair.

“In the past we’ve allowed them to use the fields at no cost. But there is cost to the town in terms of grass and seeding,” Franklin said. “Going forward, we have to find what’s fair for all involved.”

Gina Dow, president of Blythewood Youth Football and Cheer, pleaded with council to charge a reasonable fee if fees must be set.

“I am at no point asking for free use of anything,” she said. “For me, $300 a week for practice in the grand scheme of things is a lot and it’s something I cannot afford to do”

Blythewood Soccer Club president Frank Cahoon requested that council members hold off on implementing new fees until next season. He said registration fees for the current season don’t take field use fees into account.

“The problem for us is the timing. If you do it now, after the fact, we have to eat it,” Cahoon said.

Council took no action, but will likely revisit the issue at next month’s joint meeting with the town planning commission.


  1. frank cahoon says

    When is the next joint session of the planning commission and the town council.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]