Tourism, sure. But a growing list of events wouldn't just be for visitors to Lancaster County. Locals could soon be marking up their calendars, too.
Five county groups have plans to extend or add festivals, art shows, performances. One wants to bring painted dogs to the county. Collectively, the groups asked for close to $150,000 from the county to make the additions happen.
Not all of the group's plans have been announced, with several depending on requested funding from an accommodations tax charged on overnight stays in Lancaster County. Plans to turn the Indian Land Fall Festival into a two-weekend event is one such effort.
"As the event grew, we realized it was growing bigger than just one group could promote," said Michael Neese, head of the group that took the festival over from the Indian Land Rotary Club. "We do hope to engage even more people."
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Debra Jaillette, executive director for Lancaster County Council of the Arts, is working on a separate effort to add some visual appeal to the county.
"It's a public art project that would take artist-painted (fiberglass) dogs to different parts of the county," she said of her group's request. "They're life-sized and they promote our city, our county."
Lancaster County Council will decide how much of the $149,000 it has banked in the tax fund to spend. By law the county has to spend at least $73,000 this year.
An advisory committee met last Friday afternoon to hear pitches, and will meet again May 18 for a formal recommendation to council. Council should decided May 29. Dean Faile, chairman of the advisory committee, said some proposals "didn't meet the intent" or otherwise may not be fits for the tax money, which has to be spent on tourism.
No final decisions were made last Friday.
"We reviewed those (applications)," Faile said. "We had a few questions for a few of the applicants."
Overall, ideas were strong.
"There were some very creative, unique ideas," Faile said.
Those ideas are:
▪ Indian Land Fall Festival leaders were happy with their event last fall, but within three years they want to grow it from one day to a two-weekend, 10-day celebration. They're looking to add a permanent stage, landscaping and erosion control to the schools complex at $10,000. The group wants to spend another $30,000 to market the event.
The festival began 13 years ago as an Indian Land Rotary Club event. That group stepped aside last year and community members stepped up to keep the festival going. Last fall, the festival became perhaps the largest single-day tourism event in county history with 18,000 attendees.
This year the event comes Nov. 3. Likely activities include a car show, food truck rodeo, 5K, cornhole tournament, music, fireworks and crafts. A new home section will provide information for people looking to move to the county. A considerable chunk of marketing money will be directed at the northeast and midwest parts of the country, with their large populations of people who may relocate here.
The festival thus far has been a self-funded group. There was seed money last year from an individual that won't be part of planning this year. The festival committee recognizes and target the more than 1 million people living within 20 miles of their event, more than 90 percent of them non-county residents.
Last fall's festival won the Rising Star award from the South Carolina Festival and Events Association.
▪ A public art tourism project, Paws on Parade, brings together Lancaster County Council of the Arts and the Avant Garde Center for the Arts. The first run would bring 10 dog sculptures, five breeds, installed throughout the county at festivals, events or major business functions. More would be added at public buildings, historic homes, parks.
"We would reach out to local artists to do them," Jaillette said.
Other communities have done similar, permanent art displays using bears, mermaids, butterflies, pigs, turtles, mice and more.
Formed in 1977, the arts council will work with local artists and installers. Businesses or community groups could have dog sculptures to fit their brands. The arts council requested $24,200.
According to the group, last year there were more than 50,000 visitors to Lancaster's cultural arts district, about twice the city's population. Timing for the project depends on tax money approval.
▪ The Community Playhouse of Lancaster County brings in 300-500 people per production. Their records show about 20 percent of those patrons come from outside the county, 95 percent of them from outside Lancaster city limits. More county tax money would, group leaders say, broaden the appeal even further.
All but about $5,000 of the almost $71,000 the group is requesting from the county and city would go to lighting and sound upgrades, stage curtains, a trailer and storage, mobile theater equipment, costumes and props. The remaining $5,000 would allow the group to promote itself within and beyond the county.
Workshops and performances are planned. "The Unscary Ghost" in September will have a full cast under age 18 and will cater to elementary school students, while "Romeo and Juliet" next February will aim for grades 8-9. The playhouse plans to research and gear performances toward school standards in and outside the county, a move to bring in guests by the classroom or grade level. Marketing money would promote those shows within schools near and near-enough.
Founded in 1972, the playhouse has never had its own facility. Performances run out of schools and churches, or other spots the group can find. They now use the Springs House and Barr Street School.
Workshops, dinner theaters and productions held in venues around the county highlight those areas for future visits, group members say, and online ticket sales by the theater encourages patronage from beyond the county line.
▪ The Children's Council and Coalition for Healthy Youth are going another route to bring in guests. They're doing it with education. For a decade now they've hosted a national conference on youth substance abuse in rural communities. This year's event, Aug. 8-10 at USC Lancaster, focuses on opioid use.
The conference has drawn more than 2,000 people from 26 states, one territory and Canada. The roughly 200 people from 15 states who attended last year brought an estimated economic impact, according to The Children's Council, of $62,000. The goal this year is attendance from at least 30 states.
The group is asking for $5,000 in accommodations tax money this year.
▪ A new Indian Land art show is in the works. Lancaster County Council on Aging is asking for $5,000 in county tax money for two folk art shows and sales. The one Dec. 1 at St. Luke Methodist Church is a repeat. Then the group is adding a spring 2019 event at a to-be-determined site in Indian Land.
Last year's showcase brought 30 artists, twice as many coming from outside the county. Potters, woodworkers, felting artists, basket-makers and more participated. More than 300 people visited the event.
The Council on Aging is a nonprofit dating back to 1975. Last year it served a third of the almost 17,000 seniors in county.
While the money is available countywide, Indian Land has its share of projects from the extended festival to the new folk art show to likely landing spots for dog sculptures. It's part population, with Indian Land growing at rates unseen elsewhere in the county, and part location.
Indian Land has advantages when it comes to tourism, a requirement for the tax money.
"There's no question," Neese said. "One thing that makes Indian Land unique is our geography. You can go four miles and be in two different states or three different counties."
There also is a desire in the fast-growing area, he said, to show off the community.
"It shows that Indian Land has an interest in these kind of things, in promoting their community," Neese said.
By focusing on tourism, Jaillette said, all of Lancaster County wins.
"It's a tourism project," she said of the dog sculptures. "It allows people to get excited to come and see what's so wonderful about your community."
All the projects getting all their requested funding isn't likely.
"I don't foresee that happening based on our conversations today," Faile said.
The ones that do likely will get it based on broad appeal, locally and beyond county borders. More tourists spending more nights in hotels means, eventually, more money to spend on future proposals.
"You want to invest this money in a way that it creates more dollars," Faile said.
John Marks: 803-329-4000; @JohnFMTimes