Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Here’s how York County puts on community events without breaking the bank

The annual Yorktown Christmas Market is one event co-sponsored by York County and Village Events (WYDaily/Courtesy York County)
The annual Yorktown Christmas Market is one event co-sponsored by York County and Village Events (WYDaily/Courtesy York County)

In Yorktown, history, industry and tourism collide.

A brick and stone sidewalk brushes along a white sandy beach on the York River, leading to a public pier where fishermen cast their lines and pull up crab traps from the brackish water. Nearby up a hill, a granite Revolutionary War monument towers above, overlooking the river and historic buildings.

It doesn’t stop there.

During the warm season, Yorktown fills to the brim with locals and tourists alike for music, festivals and markets.

A push to attract tourists and locals to community events year-round has resulted in a web of partnerships between the county, local businesses and nonprofits, aimed at fueling the local economy and keeping county costs low.

Most county events are planned or staffed by local nonprofits or businesses, while the county provides facilities or other services, said Kristi Olsen, York County tourism development manager.

“We pay … a fraction of what it would cost for us to put on that event ourselves,” Olsen said.

At the end of the day, the event planners receive revenue from the events, while the county increases tourism and community engagement, Olsen said.

“I have one event planner on my staff,” Olsen said. “Partnering with other organizations and businesses has been the most successful model.”

The second-annual Vintage Marketplace is scheduled for this Saturday. (WYDaily/Courtesy York County)
The second-annual Vintage Marketplace is scheduled for this Saturday. (WYDaily/Courtesy York County)

An upcoming event

An example of these partnerships is this Saturday’s Vintage Marketplace.

York County and Village Events are co-sponsoring the free, second-annual Vintage Marketplace from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the McReynolds Athletic Complex, featuring collectibles, art and antiques from more than 40 vendors.

While the event was “incredibly popular” for its first run, York County doesn’t need to spend much money on it, Olsen said.

The Vintage Marketplace is co-sponsored by local business Village Events. Village Events takes care of setup, staff, coordinating vendors, signage and more. The county provides some staff and runs a trolley to transport people to the event.

To offset their costs, Village Events takes a portion of vendor revenues, Olsen said.

Putting some money behind it

Only two of the county’s annual events include a contract where the county pays money to a planning event company: the Wine Festival and Blues, Brews and BBQ.

The county pays Village Events $10,000 annually to put on Blues, Brews & BBQ, and $7,500 annually for the Yorktown Wine Festival, according to the festival contracts.

The contracts require Village Events to organize the entirety of the events, enforce ABC regulations, coordinate trash removal and more.

In return, the contracts require the county to provide sheriff’s deputies and emergency medical and fire personnel, some supplies such as “No Parking” signs, restroom cleaning and festival promotion.

The county also solely sponsors and pays for some of its own events, including Cabin Fever, Sounds of Summer (formerly Shagging on the Riverwalk) and Rhythms on the Riverwalk. 

The  non-personnel expenditures budget for Yorktown events this year is $99,200, Olsen said.

Tracking the impact

Increasing the number of community events in York County was designated as a priority by the Board of Supervisors.

“In recent strategic priorities set by the Board of Supervisors, they asked us to duplicate the success (of Yorktown events) in other parts of the county,” Olsen said. “Vintage Marketplace is a relatively new event, and it was a part of that expansion.”

Olsen said the county uses meals tax revenue as one measure to track the success of these events, although it doesn’t track how much sales tax revenue is collected specifically from the events.

Event attendance and local business feedback are also used to measure success.

“Because our primary goal is for the community to come together, not everything is based on revenues,” Olsen said.

For now, the county plans to keep pushing ahead on increasing tourism.

“Every year, we’ve added something new or expanded something,” Olsen said. “It’s really brought the community together.”


Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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