June 21, 2010

Tourism big business in town

The Express-Star

— Your Chickasha Chamber of Commerce has a long tradition of recognizing Tourism as a driving “economic engine” for our city.

Tourism brought $6.1 Billion to Oklahoma in 2008, making it the state’s third largest industry. The Chamber supports, both directly and with the Economic Development Council, events that bring excitement, people, and money into our city: money spent at motels, at restaurants, at convenience stores and other retail establishments.

All visitors need to buy gas.These establishments hire employees to support the tourism. Sales tax dollars paid by the tourists directly benefit the city. These recirculating tourism dollars form the “economic engine.”

We are very fortunate in Chickasha to have year round tourism events that enhance the quality of life in our city and bring in tourist dollars. Exhibitions, livestock and horse shows, Sports Complex Tournaments, high school and college sports and events, antique auto swapmeets, and our Festival of Light bring hundreds of thousands of people to Chickasha each year.

Our city is known for the big events. People all around this nation are apt to say “ Chickasha? Oh the city with the big light show.”

Our Festival of Light began in 1993 with the unheard of quantity of one million lights decorating 93 relatively small trees in Shanoan Springs Park. Seventeen years of growth have brought us to three million lights hung on 220 trees (down from 300 because of recent ice storms) and over 100 beautiful ground displays.

Towering over the Festival is the largest freestanding Christmas tree in the United States. This “Beacon of Christmas Spirit” stands 172 feet tall and is decorated with 25,000 lights! Originally, the Festival was conceived and cosponsored by the Chickasha Chamber of Commerce, and was quickly adopted by the Chickasha community.

Management of the Festival was shifted to an independent entity in 2000 and remained that way until 2006 when it returned to the Chamber with the co-sponsorship of the Economic Development Council.

Today Festival management consists of an independent Board of Directors and event Director Kristi Davis. Offices are in the Chamber headquarters at 221 Chickasha Ave.

In spite of the best of intentions, severe weather has taken a financial toll on the Festival over the last three years. Ice storms have twice destroyed all of the lights in the trees.

We are thankful that the federal government ( FEMA) did help in replacing some of this loss. Ice and snow caused the destruction of all of the lights on the big tree in each of the last three years. A big financial hit resulted because the Festival had to close for twenty days total over the last three years due to weather.

When open with nice seasonable weather, the Festival expects (and indeed must have) total income of over $3,700 per day. When forced to close, event income drops to ZERO.

Because of the weather problems and ever increasing costs of set-up, teardown, and required insurance, the Chickasha Festival of Light must ask for help from the businesses and citizens of Chickasha. $25,000 must be raised through sponsorships and special donations by September 1, 2010 or the event cannot continue.

The Oklahoma Department of Tourism estimates the “income” to the state from the Festival of Light to be $1million per year. We all know the direct benefits that we see in service establishments throughout Chickasha when the Festival tourists are in our town. All of our Chamber of Commerce leadership strongly urges the people of Chickasha to come forward and help OUR Festival of Light. We can’t afford not to.

Visit HYPERLINK www.ChickashaFestivalof to find out how you can help or call 224-0787 for more information.