Monday, May 27, 2013

Dunwoody-Style Moneyball

What is a "Dunwoody" Festival?

My three kids and husband (read:  four kids) and I were hanging out at the first Food Truck Thursday in Brook Run and I was mentally making notes on which of these mobile enterprises had mobile-friendly websites, who promoted the event on their site, their social media, and who had visible QR codes on their trucks.  My next post was going to be a commentary on the new necessity of mobile-friendly websites and web media.  (It's still in the hopper, I promise.)

Five years into existence and the race is on for THE ultimate "festival" experience.  Everyone has an idea for a "community" event.  One that will "bring everyone out".  Just have fun.  And of course - earn some money, or lay the groundwork and name recognition for money-making in the future.  Every idea floated around from the DHA to the Chamber, to the CVB, to City Council itself is conceived somewhere else and a local fan wants to copy or "recreate" it.

So instead of going with personal tastes and other subjective criteria, let's go straight to the stats and eyeball what works and what doesn't.

The most successful "community events" in Dunwoody (in no particular order)

  • 4th of July Parade
  • Lemonade Days
  • Light Up Dunwoody
  • Arts Festival (Mother's Day weekend)
  • Food Truck Thursday launch

Least Successful:

  • Dunwoody Fair (by unknown promoter)
  • Music Festival 2011
This isn't including one-offs like "ChickStock" at the newly-opened Chick-fil-A on Jett Ferry that was covered by local news outlets.

Successful festivals and events in Dunwoody - whether they are longstanding traditions or recent developments - have the following traits in common:
  1. Food
  2. Shopping
  3. Entertainment that is geared toward or engages children
"Live Music" is the huge fad in recent years.  However, there is little to show that live music is a big draw in Dunwoody.  When the chili cook-off changed over to a dedicated "music festival", attendance numbers dropped off, in spite of professional promotion and a headline act of national talent.  Even earlier, in 2010, with Banks & Shane as headliners, there was more attention paid to the chili, city logo reveal, and fireworks than the performance.

Lemonade Days 2013 boasted new "live music" and yet, as the Dunwoody Talk blog noted, there was little attention paid to the bands.  The Food Truck Thursdays kickoff had crowds milling about the parking lot and grassy areas between the skate park and kids playground, and about two-dozen people paying attention to the acts that could not be heard anywhere near the trucks.  

The Nature Center has an annual concert series that seems to be an exception to the above but it is unclear whether visitors are coming for the music, or to enjoy the Center where they are already members.  Do the numbers for the concert series come even close to the Butterfly Festival, which fits two of the above three criteria?  Comments are open for more input.

Another observation is that it is irrelevant whether or not the festival and its vendors are from Dunwoody, or whether the sponsoring organization is "for profit" or "not for profit".  In the examples above, the only festival that makes money for Dunwoody is Lemonade Days:  the Dunwoody Preservation Trust raises money to preserve and improve properties around the city, minus whatever cash the carnies drive off with along with their rides and attractions.  (Update:  the carnival company is Dunwoody-owned, per the comments.  Confirmation pending.)

Chick-fil-A is a nationwide chain that makes no bones (pun intended) about their profit motive.  All hail the marketing department and their social media campaign with contest to bring about Dunwoody ChickStock!

Dunwoody Arts Festival - produced by Splash Festivals, based in Norcross.  Were there any artists selling wares that were based in Dunwoody?  I didn't notice any.

Food Truck Thursdays - the promoter is from Atlanta and only one of the five trucks is owned an operated by a Dunwoody resident.  (Update:  supposedly two, Hail Ceasar and one other - pending confirmation.)

Dunwoody Green Market - not mentioned above but outdoor markets are part of "the latest thing" in "community events" and warrants a review.  The mailing address for the organization is in Cumming and I could not find any Dunwoody-based or -owned vendors.

It doesn't seem like a big deal but consider:  Dunwoody as a city and community is losing money with most of these festivals.  Vendors and organizers set up shop to sell to the Dunwoody community, and then take the money elsewhere.  We're a cash cow.  Is that OK?  Or do we want to generate festivals and events that bring money into Dunwoody's coffers?

Comments are open.  Discuss.


Bob Lundsten said...

just a question or two.
How are we, the city or the community, losing money?
Is there any reason why we would not want others to make money in Dunwoody if they are providing a source of community entertainment?
I am just not sure where you are going with the piece you have written.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

You're asking the same questions that I am, from a different perspective.

Cash flow is outgoing at these festivals (except for Lemonade Days). Promoters and others come in, make money and leave. The final question out of several is - is this OK - to be the area cash cow - or do we want to take a differnt approach that will allow events to be created and keep the cash flow coming in?

The rest of it was juts observation on what has historically "worked" and what hasn't in town. I found the drive for live music ironic given that in and of itself, live music doesn't have a good track record.

Tom said...

It's probably worth noting that the carnival company used by Lemonade Days is based in Dunwoody as well. That wasn't always the case, but has been for the past two years.

Anon said...

Two of the five trucks were owned by a Dunwoody Resident. He also owns a commercial kitchen where many of the other trucks rent space to do their prep work.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

@Tom thanx for the update. I tried to search and didn't see that the carnival group was owned by Dunwoody residents. I'll make an update to the article.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

@Anon - I heard that Hail Ceasar was Dunwoody-owned. What is the other one?

Tom said...

Also, this is the second year for music at Lemonade Days. Attendance was much better this year than last, although it's still a small part of the festival.

If "Pressed for Time" was there, they're also owned by the firm that operates "Hail Caesar".

DNC said...

The concerts at the Nature Center are generally a pretty even split of members and non-members. In 2012 we had just over 1,000 people attend 5 concerts. This is far fewer than attend the Butterfly Festival (which also has a musical act) which last year had 3,000 in attendance. Our concerts are put on to draw people to the park to enjoy a natural setting, music, and congregate with friends. It's a break even proposition for the Nature Center, whereas the Butterfly Festival is more of a programmatic revenue generator.

Brent M said...

Perhaps another chili-cook-off is in order?

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Return of the Chili cook-off could be fun.

Or check in w/ Rick's commentary on the lack of in-town sports teams and venues to play. That opportunity is still waiting.