When it comes to the puzzle of how to make the city’s annual Stonewall Parade and Festival bigger and better, a big piece may finally be in place.
At the Wilton Manors Commission meeting on Aug. 22, Jeff Sterling, CEO of the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group [WMEG], the organization that worked with the city to put on the event, presented a final report.
Sterling said the festival was “in the black” for a third year in a row and that organizers finally had a specific crowd size estimate for the June event, which is held every year on Wilton Drive to commemorate the riots which occurred in June of 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Sterling said 33,700 people came to the event. “We are the largest gay event in Wilton Manors.” Knowing exactly how many attended, he said, will give WMEG the tool it needs to appeal to larger sponsors and apply for grants. “This was a missing tool. We’re giving them a large value,” said Sterling about possible future sponsors.
Along with the number of visitors, Sterling also touted the dollars generated by the event, for both the city and county. Commissioners agreed. Mayor Gary Resnick said that “we can take it into Justin’s boss,” referring to Vice Mayor Justin Flippen who works at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The thinking is that the Convention & Visitors Bureau might provide some financial assistance for future Stonewall’s if the event is proven to be a tourist draw and money-generator for the area. Resnick added that the information could also be used to attract a possible hotel developer. Flippen said the information represents an opportunity to further “brand ourselves.”
In an effort to get people out earlier, Sterling said the parade was moved up to an earlier time. He said it was a controversial decision but one that he thinks contributed to the success of the event.
The June heat is a common complaint among festival goers and many have suggested Stonewall be moved to a month with cooler temperatures. But Resnick said he would oppose moving it because the event needs to be held in June as a way to commemorate the anniversary of the riots, and as a way to help business owners get through the summer slowdown.
“It is estimated the event has had a cumulative economic impact which exceeds $10 million in Broward County over the past five to seven years. These impacts are particularly meaningful since they occur during the ‘off-season’ in Broward County and so they help sustain local businesses during the slow time of the year,” reads a report by Fishkind & Associates, an economic consulting firm hired to study Stonewall’s impact.
The estimate of total event spending by visitors, tourists, and residents who attended is $4.1 million. Of that, $1.2 million has a direct economic impact. “This $1.2 million represents ‘new money’ directly infused and retained in the Broward County economy. Survey data indicates 75% of event attendees were Broward County residents and 25% of attendees are from out of area. Non-Broward attendee origins include predominantly Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and some other areas. While 25% of event goers were from out of area, these non-local visitors account for 34% of direct spending, because of higher per capita spending.”
Broward residents spent $109 on average, visitors from surrounding counties and out of the area spent an average of $165. When indirect impacts are taken into account, the total impact to Broward is $2.01 million.