Running and jazz, just two ideas

Published 6:47 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

By By BILL CRIST - Publisher
At this time of year, many newspaper columnists choose to take a look at the year which has just past. Perhaps they put together a "Top 10" list of events that shaped a community, state or our nation. Others spend time focusing on just one or two events and the impact they had on the area. Still others choose to look ahead, forecasting headlines that we might see in the coming year. In the interest of trying to keep at least a few of you reading past this first paragraph, I'm going to put last year behind me, avoid making predictions and focus instead on two events I'd like to see come to town in the next year.
The first would be a fun run. Several years ago, Brewton hosted such an event, but it's been at least 3 years since the last runner crossed the finish line here. There has been some conversation about holding a run in conjunction with the Blueberry Festival. That would certainly be one option, but perhaps a better alternative would be on a weekend when we don't have a large event already scheduled. For at least the first several years most of the runners are going to be from the Brewton area, and in planning for growth, a fun run, or road race, should stand on its own.
One theme that has worked well lately to swell the registration at fun runs is to schedule them for a holiday evening so a town can show off its Christmas lights and decorations. A run I was involved with starting 12 years ago has grown from just over 300 runners to more than 4,000 during that time. That run is taking place in a much larger city, but the potential to host a large, popular run here is out there.
Another event that could be staged in downtown Brewton would be an art show and jazz festival. Using the parking lot and buildings around the Boardwalk area and Burnt Corn Creek Park for exhibits, stages, food vendors and parking, Brewton could host a large number of visitors downtown. Since the featured attractions would be something we don't see a lot of in this area, interest would likely be high in such an event. It would also be a great opportunity for our city to market itself outside the area and draw visitors from near and far.
One of the great misconceptions about events such as these is that they are going to pump a lot of money into the local economy. That may or may not be the case. Some events attract visitors that drive in, spend an afternoon and drive out without spending a dime. Other events may generate minimal sales of food, gas and the like. And sometimes lightning strikes, and an event brings foot traffic to local merchants on the same day, sales soar and everyone walks away happy. More than likely, a fun run and jazz festival would bring people to town, but not likely have them pulling out a checkbook at each of our merchants.
Getting them here to see what Brewton has to offer is the first step, though. While runners may pull in and out of town before many businesses even open, they would get an up close view of our diverse shops and offerings. By putting coupons or special offers in their race packets, we may be able to draw them back to Brewton for a second visit.
Another step our community needs to take is to develop modern, clean, comfortable accommodations for out-of-town visitors. In doing so, we can plan events that lend themselves to overnight stays. Those types of visitors are the most attractive for merchants as they generally eat their meals at restaurants, have time to kill in local shops and are more likely to spend money in our community.
Holding a couple of events is not a cure-all for a stagnant economy. Holding a single jazz festival is not going to put Brewton on the map as a must-visit community. What events like these can do, though, is plant the seeds for expansion, show off our community and get more people involved in building a better town. Those are positive things for any community, Brewton and East Brewton included.
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