The recent vote by Cottonwood City Council to split Thunder Valley Rally between Old Town and Riverfront Park defies logic.
If attending bikers are given the choice between Old Town with some vendors and some bikes or Riverfront Park with some vendors, some bikes and live music that goes late into the night, what rationale would keep them in Old Town?
If attendees want to drink, it would be illogical for them to drink in Old Town, then sober up and head to the park or possibly risk a DUI or bike accident on the drive between the two, nor should organizers put other drivers’ lives at risk along Main Street by splitting alcohol vendors and tacitly encouraging drunk driving.
Most bikers spend thousands on their rides and are unlikely to risk damage to their motorcycles nor impoundment after a DUI, meaning alcohol sales in Old Town will likely be far less than in previous years making those vendor slots a harder sell.
The draw of photo opportunities in quaint and Sturgis-esque Old Town is one thing, but most bikers come to motorcycle rallies for the bikes, not the backdrop. Riverfront Park has for more space for parking anyway.
Residents must also question the logic of spending tens of thousands of dollars — more than $100,000 in one past year — for an event that most residents don’t attend and which may pay for itself in tax revenue but not in direct sales for businesses most affected in the area.
If regular customers were supplanted by out-of-town visitors, the rally event would make sense to business owners, but the fact is the majority of merchants along Main Street in Old Town see no real benefit to their business operations during the event but instead lose money if they stay open.
Like most tourism draws, attendees will spend a night or two in the community where the event is held, spending money at local businesses and in local hotels. But most of Cottonwood’s hotels are spread throughout the city, not just in Old Town, so where the actual event is held is immaterial to the collection of tax revenue.
Admittedly, the event provides our newspaper some great photo opportunities and we encourage events that connect the communities we cover, but not at the expense of taxpayer funds or if it produces more grumbling from residents than cheers.
Other Verde Valley towns provide some limited financial assistance to local events — the Sedona Marathon, the Sedona International Film Festival, Camp Verde Cornfest and the Pecan & Wine Festival come to mind — but small towns with strapped budgets should not wholly subsidize a festival unless local support is overwhelmingly in favor, a bar the Thunder Valley Rally does not yet reach.
With this hybrid version set, it would be unfair to the organizers for council to revisit this issue this year, but for 2018, organizers should move the entire event to one location, look for private sponsorship and only count on the city to waive fees and assist with promotion.
Meanwhile, the Cottonwood City Council should save its money for events that bring the community together rather than divide it.