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Chamber Board Hires Management Group for Wistaria Festival

January 15, 2008

By Bill Coburn


The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, at a meeting on January 3rd, voted to hire the event management company LifeStyles Infocus to oversee this year’s Wistaria Festival, scheduled for March 30th.


The Wistaria Festival features the World’s Largest Blossoming Plant as certified by the Guiness Book of World Records, and includes tours of the property on which the vine sits, an arts and crafts vendor section downtown, and food and games in Memorial Park.  It is the Chamber’s largest source of revenue, and brings to town crowds ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 people, depending largely on weather and other events taking place in the region that weekend.


“The Wistaria Festival is a uniquely Sierra Madre event, and we have made it clear to LifeStyles Infocus that we want it to remain that way,” said Patricia Hall, president of the Chamber.  “The local community civic organizations that have worked on this event for years do an outstanding job, and we have no intention of changing the nuts and bolts of the event at all.  We hope that everyone will continue to work as hard as they have in year’s past to support this signature Sierra Madre event.  However, some members of the Board thought it was possible that the overall management of the event could be improved, particularly in the area of maximizing revenue.  For instance, what if the downtown layout could be improved to allow another 15 to 20 vendors?  At $175 per vendor, that could be an additional $3,500 in revenue.  If there’s a way to streamline the logistics with loading and unloading the buses that would allow an additional 250 people to view the vine, at $10/ticket, that would be an additional $2,500 in revenue.  And there has never been any type of sponsorship, which is the way events like this are funded these days. This company specializes in this sort of thing, and we hope that by bringing them in, we will take a good event and turn it into a great one.”


In addition to streamlining operations to make the event more efficient and profitable, LifeStyles Infocus will create and maintain a budget for the event, work with municipal agencies including the Health Dept. to make sure that all permits are obtained and the conditions of those permits are conformed with, will do all the tedious work of laying out the event such as chalk lines for the booths, etc., put together a marketing plan, create a sponsor’s package, and create a Festival Guideline that includes timelines and tasks for every aspect of the event, to be utilized by the Chamber in years to come.  LifeStyles Infocus will also investigate and make recommendations about such issues as whether the Chamber has properly protected itself from a business standpoint, such as intellectual property like copyrights and trademarks.  Another term of the contract calls for them to promote local merchants and restaurants.  “After all,” said Hall “the Wistaria Festival may be an important source of Chamber revenue, but its main purpose is to help the Chamber in fulfilling its mission, which is to encourage a healthy business environment by advancing, promoting and supporting the businesses serving Sierra Madre.”


The contract with LifeStyles Infocus is for one year with a fee of $10,000 plus out of pocket costs, with out of pocket capped at $1,500, and the Chamber Board will have to decide next year if the benefits of hiring the management company justify hiring them again for future years.  “It was important that we get the Festival Guideline made, which has been done in varying degrees over the years, but never completely, so that if we choose to go it alone next year, we have an efficient guide to help us make sure that things are handled the best they can be from a management standpoint,” said Hall.  “At the same time, we anticipate that with an increased revenue stream through increased vendors, ticket sales and sponsorship, there is a possibility that there will be no question as to the value of having done this.  It’s a bold step, but the Board voted that they felt it was the right step to take at this time.”


In the interest of full disclosure, the author of this article is on the Chamber’s Board of Directors, sat on the sub-committee which investigated the possibility of bringing in a management company, and voted to approve the hiring.

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