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Jan 23, 2015
Williamsburg City Council 'disappointed' in Colonial Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG - During City Council's discussion of what items might best be funded out of a tourism promotion contingency fund Monday, two members made it clear that there was one item they weren't pleased to have to consider.

That's the $20,500 City Manager Jack Tuttle said it would take to pay the Virginia Symphony Orchestra to play July Fourth. That event traditionally coincides with Colonial Williamsburg's fireworks display, and traditionally the cost has been picked up by the foundation. This year Colonial Williamsburg decided to cut that cost.

That didn't please Councilman Doug Pons.

"I thought the reason that we gave Colonial Williamsburg $1.3 million was to cover things like this," Pons said. "Recently their marketing has become more and more centered around themselves and only drives business to their properties. July Fourth weekend has always been a weekend that was good for everybody in town. I don't think we should be getting away from the things that make Williamsburg what it is. Maybe we should re-think where we are spending that $1.3 million."

Colonial Williamsburg is funded in the city's proposed 2016 budget at $1.3 million, the same amount it received last year.

Tuttle said, to the best of his knowledge only three places on the East Coast had fireworks and an orchestra on July Fourth: Boston, Washington and Williamsburg.

Councilwoman Judy Knudson reminded Pons that the money the city gives to Colonial Williamsburg is for marketing. "That's marketing money, I don't think you'd want to use marketing money for programming."

After Council adjourned, Mayor Clyde Haulman said he was surprised and disappointed that Colonial Williamsburg would abandon such a long-running and popular program.

Council decided that all five programs mentioned by Tuttle were worthy of funding, although they weren't sure the tourism contingency fund was the best source for the money.

Haulman said he thought a proposal to fund a pullout map in the Williamsburg Hotel-Motel Association's visitors guide that would highlight city businesses might be more properly funded from a similar contingency fund controlled by the Economic Development Authority.

That would cost $10,000.

Other proposals include:

Adding $50,000 to double the city's contribution to Festival Williamsburg.

Insuring that First Night continues by adding $15,000 to the event's cash reserve to allow it to begin signing acts for next year.

Repeat the $6,000 allocation that it made this year for the Winter Blues Jazz Fest

The fund, originally $250,000, currently has a balance of $186,000.

Council didn't take action on the requests Monday, but asked Tuttle to prepare a recommendation based on the discussion.
Well, there is the Dogwood Dell 4th of July fireworks display joined by the Richmond Symphony 45 minutes down the road. They also shoot off real cannons at this display. Tuttle needs to pay better attention to his neighboring festivities before arguing that he has something unique.
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