The 2012 Storytelling Festival of Carolina meant big bucks for the county based on preliminary estimates by Scotland tourism officials.
With more than 1,100 attendees on Friday and Saturday, it has been estimated by Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Cory Hughes that approximately $75,000 in revenue was brought into the county over the course of the event.
“The storytelling festival is one of our top Scotland County tourism events,” said Hughes.
In the past, according to Hughes, approximately 100 “room nights” are typically booked during the event. Despite rain, it is anticipated that a comparable number of bookings were made for the 2012 festival – the sixth in the event’s history.
The TDA offered $18,500 in grant support for marketing of the event (along with several other events put on by the Storytelling Arts Center), as well as advertising/marketing advice and support.
“We took a three-pronged approach to marketing the storytelling festival,” Hughes added.
The three elements to the TDA-designed marketing campaign were a direct-mail effort targeting North Carolina Arts supporters, an advertising campaign on public radio and in theater playbills and local advertising in area newspapers.
According to Hughes, the Storytelling Festival of Carolina was the main sponsor of NPR’s popular “Prairie Home Companion” program in North and South Carolina over the past two months.
That kind of targeted marketing, said Hughes, is one of the reasons for the festival’s continued success, despite a designed decrease in grant funds from the TDA.
“Our marketing has become more specialized and more efficient,” said Hughes.
The TDA’s efforts are funded by a six-percent hotel room tax.
While the TDA will continue to offer marketing advice and organization to the festival, the goal is to continue to decrease the grant funds awarded to the event as it continues to flourish.
The festival’s stellar reputation among attendees and storytellers is another reason for the its continued success, said festival organizer Jan Schmidt.
“People who like storytelling, they recognize that these tellers we have are the best in the country.”
Schmidt also credited the festival’s “reasonable cost” relative to festivals with comparable performers as a reason for its popularity.
“Our festival is also a much more intimate, personal experience for festival-goers,” said Schmidt.
“At (the national storytelling festival in) Jonesborough, Tennessee, there are three or four thousand people in a tent, whereas here there are only several hundred.”
Advertising for this year’s festival was also placed on the North Carolina Travel and Tourism website and on the several billboards along Highway 74.
“We also promoted a lot in the Fort Bragg area,” said Hughes.
Organizers’ only regret is that locals are not attending the event in greater numbers.
“We’ve done research in the past that showed us that there was really only a smattering of locals at (the Storytelling Festival of Carolina), with many more from outside of the county,” said Hughes.
While this year’s festival likely experienced diminished attendance by Scotland County locals due to Saturday’s soggy weather, “we still wish people realized what they are missing,” said Schmidt.
“We really want local people to take advantage of this great Scotland County event.”