For about a quarter century or so, the Flagler Beach Chamber of Commerce and its county parent have run Flagler Beach’s July 4 festivities, which jam tens of thousands of visitors to the city’s streets, beaches, parks and businesses, and culminate in the region’s most spectacular fireworks show the evening of Independence Day. The event is a boon for businesses. It also generates a few thousand dollars for the chamber. But it costs the city anywhere from $6,000 to $14,000 when its extra police, fire and sanitation costs are calculated.
Now the city is thinking of taking over the event-not just to break even, but to generate some extra revenue for its coffers. It’s part of the city’s larger strategy of developing more events that make some money. Palm Coast does it. Flagler Beach, whose manager, Bruce Campbell, has taken a few cues for Palm Coast manager Jim Landon, wants to do likewise. But taking over the July 4th festivities is not as simple as it may sound.
And Thursday evening, the Flagler Beach City Commission spent more than hour wrestling with six options Campbell drew up, only to decide not to make a decision just yet, because every one of the five commissioners and the mayor had a different idea on how to proceed. And the Flagler Beach chamber, represented by Mark Gerling, its current chief, made clear that it wasn’t too keen on giving up the event to get nothing in return-especially if giving it up in favor of a “partnership” with the city would mean that the city would reap the financial rewards while the chamber would still end up doing much of the work.
Especially if, as Flagler Beach is planning to do this year, the event stretches over three days, as opposed to one in previous years. (July 4 falls on a Thursday this year. Flagler Beach would have its First Friday the next day, and would extend the festivities through Saturday, though most likely, as City Commissioner Marshall Shupe noted, visitors would themselves stretch the weekend to Sunday, too, for a total of four days).
It takes a lot of work to pull off the 4th: Rebecca DeLorenzo, the acting president of the Flagler chamber, has run the event for several years in the past, when it was just a one-day event: 20 to 25 people have been needed to pull off the event, including 15 in Flagler Beach the whole day, from 6 a.m. to midnight, with additional volunteers filling shifts along the way. For all that, the chamber has strained to secure enough volunteers, especially as the day has worn on. “It is an animal, any way you shake it, it’s an animal,” Gerling said.
If Flagler Beach takes the event over, it would be doing so with little to no experience, with a staff that’s already stretched to the limit (by its own accounts), and with little experience drafting volunteers or advocating for local businesses, as the chamber does. It’s that sort of uncertainty that had several city commissioners uneasy with a take-over.
But that’s what Campbell is recommending: a complete take-over, without chamber involvement. “You’re going to have $17,000 worth of revenue,” Campbell told the commission, “maybe $6,000 to $8,000 in profits.”
The chamber is willing to give up the event. But it would like the city to contribute some money to the chamber’s foundation, a non-profit arm that provides small grants to local businesses to help them with improvements (the Golden Lion and the Beachhouse Beanery got recent grants in Flagler Beach). That option doesn’t sit well with Campbell. “We’re doing all the work, and we’re going to be doing all of it away,” he says, so why contribute the proposed 30 percent of profits to the chamber? Commissioner Steve Settle, too, is not keen on making a donation to the chamber.
Gerling said a different option (the first on Campbell’s list of six) is the ideal one, for the chamber. That option calls for the city drafting all the vendors and keeping the estimated $11,250 the vendor fee revenue would generate. The chamber would obtain all the sponsorship revenue, estimated at $5,000, enabling it to continue the grant program. But the city would be responsible for all the promotional expenses, the entertainment expenses, trash, police and fire.
That’s the option that Commission Chairwoman Jane Mealy favors. “I don’t look at it as we would lose money, because we would have to pay for those costs anyway,” she said.
Commissioners McGrew, Shupe and Carney didn’t cite specific options, but fell on a spectrum that was somewhere between the city taking over part of the event and the chamber maintaining some control.
“A partnership is the only way to make this work. I’m not sure what the percentages are,” Shupe said. McGrew is uncomfortable with the city looking at the event as a money-maker, beyond recovering city costs, or that it would be the best use of city staff time to run it, let alone run after sponsorships. “The chamber is business oriented, that’s what it’s all about,” McGrew said. Carney wants a clearer price tag of what the event costs the city in services, and to ensure that that cost is paid up.
By the end of the discussion, the commission seemed to have an unspoken agreement that a partnership with the chamber will continue, and will do so beyond the vacuous words of “good partners” that were bandied about earlier. But the hard terms of that partnership must now be worked out. Commissioners directed Campbell to do just that.
Friday, DeLorenzo spelled out where the chamber stood: “Ideally what we’d like to see if the city wanted to take it over and do the whole thing with our support-if they keep the majority of the revenue and make a donation back to the business community, that’s what we’d like to see.” Beyond that, she said, “as long as we outline that partnership, we’ll be OK.”
Here are the six options proposed by Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell:
- City obtains vendors (food and craft) receiving 100% vendor revenue. (estimated
- total revenue of $11,250 for a three day event.)
- Chamber obtains 100% of Sponsorships – receiving 100% of Sponsorship
- Revenue (estimated at total revenue of $5,000) (Allowing Chamber to continue
- grant program for Flagler Beach Businesses)
- City does all promotion, pays for entertainment, trash, police, fire (estimated total
- expenses of $6,500 – excluding trash, police, fire, misc, staff during event)
City takes over entire event without chamber involvement (all revenues/expenses).
Chamber organizes event as have in past years. (all revenue/expenses – except
trash, police, fire).
- City obtains 100% sponsors and 100% of vendors; maintaining all revenue.
- City does all promotion, provides entertainment, etc.
- City pays all expenses
- Chamber hosts “hospitality area” to generate revenue (for Flagler Beach
- Business Grant Program)
- City does all (sponsors, vendors, pays all expenses)
- Chamber is a “good” partner
- City maintains 70% of profits, providing 30% to Chamber (for Flagler Beach
- Business Grant Program)
- Chamber does all (sponsors vendors, pays aD expenses, (excluding trash, police,
- Flagler Beach is a “good” partner
- Chamber maintains 70% of profits, providing 30% to the City of Flagler Beach