Avon boasts success of summer event season while looking to the future
The town is looking ahead to next summer to improve upon the success of its events and art activations
The town of Avon returned to a full schedule of events this summer following the removal of pandemic gathering restrictions. Now the town is looking back at the events to see what worked and what didn’t, and work toward building a plan for future events — as far as 10 years into the future.
This summer, of the 102 days between the start of Memorial Day weekend and the end of Labor Day weekend, the town of Avon had 75 days where there was some sort of event in the town.
This included a variety of events — town-produced, third-party produced, nonfunding special events and pavilion rentals for private events — from its signature Salute to the USA to a new series, Summer’s End, as well as a continuation of weekly concert series, movies and art shows.
At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, the town’s Culture, Arts and Special Events manager, Danita Dempsey, will present to council on this summer’s special event achievements and on plans for next summer and beyond. This presentation is scheduled as a joint meeting between the Culture, Arts and Special Events committee and the Town Council.
While this summer was unique in that it brought a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy back to summer, the town was also able to sell alcohol concessions at its events. Overall, according to the report in the Town Council packet, the town grossed $58,768 in revenue from these alcohol sales, $13,344 in net revenue.
Another big win this summer for the town was its push for sustainability at its events. With its efforts to educate guests with Walking Mountains Science Center, the implementation of reporting plans and the restriction of certain concessions and containers, the town had an average diversion rate of 84% per town-produced event. The report states that between compost and recycling efforts, 2,179 pounds of waste was diverted away from the landfill.
The report also shares some stats and highlights from each of this summer’s town-produced events. This includes the fact that, even without fireworks, Salute to the USA remains the town’s largest event, bringing approximately 8,300 attendees to the park.
As part of the report, the town is looking forward to next summer with plans to host a similar schedule of events. “The type and frequency of activation produced in 2021 is the right blend for the local community and enhances visitor experience,” Dempsey wrote in the report.
However, there are a few exceptions to this, including the use of unused Salute to the USA fireworks in January 2022, the return of the Egg Hunt (which has been canceled due to COVID-19 the last two years), two additional AvonLIVE! Concerts (making it 11 total for the season), the removal of the AvonLIVE! Special edition concerts from the schedule and the possible continuation of the Summer’s End event and concert.
As a result of these changes — and a few additional cost increases associated with Salute to the USA — there is a net overall increase in the proposed 2022 budget of $104,668, bringing the total events budget to $768,545.60.
The desire to establish a 10-year plan for special events and art programming in Avon came from the town’s master planning for its infrastructure — particularly the planning of Harry A. Nottingham Park.
“As we look at the park plan, it feels like we need to be clear about what our 10-year vision is because that’s going to drive the park plan,” said Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes at the July 13 council meeting.
As the town seeks to understand how the park will serve residents and visitors in the long term, it is looking to see what infrastructure, if any, is needed to support the future events vision. Some of the suggestions that have come out of previous park planning sessions — and that would serve town events and programs — are a permanent concession stand as well as plans for an additional restrooms and storage.
The other part of this discussion includes walking a fine line between over- and under-programming the park — something that council members have expressed concern over in the past.
At the July 13 meeting, Dempsey stated that the 10-year vision would include between 105 and 118 event days, 45 to 55 of which would include concessions. This would expand the current event schedule beyond the summer season and into winter, spring break and end of ski season as well.
Seeking more resources
While the full summer of events went smoothly, the report highlights that the Culture, Arts and Special Events department experienced staffing shortages.
The report notes that, due to the pandemic and uncertainties around events, the town didn’t continue with a full-time, year-round special events coordinator position. Instead, it approved two part-time, seasonal event staff positions. However, with the current hiring environment, it was able to hire only one of these positions.
With this shortage, the report read that between this summer and the 2019 summer, there was a “58% increase in staff hours” for the department, not including hours dedicated to launching new arts programs.
To amend these challenges, Town Manager Eric Heil wrote in the report that “The No. 1 priority for me is to appropriately allocate and assign staff resources for 2022 in order to achieve a smooth and well-executed calendar of special events without the unsustainable strain on staff.”
As part of this priority, Heil wrote that this includes reinstating, for next year, the full-time special events coordinator position as well as adding a public works operator position, which would be dedicated to special events during the summer.
In addition to general guidance on future events and plans, there are two specific items for which the committee is seeking guidance from council.
For the town’s annual Salute to the USA event, Avon canceled its fireworks show amid growing fire restrictions and wildfire conditions across the state. However, the town has yet to remit the funds — which total $45,000 — associated with the fireworks display. This is the first area that the committee is seeking direction from council.
In the packet, Dempsey wrote that the town could host the fireworks display in January or it could forego having a fireworks display at all.
Should the town decide to host a “July in January” event with the fireworks display, the estimated total cost is $77,000. This amount includes not only the $45,000 for the fireworks but additional expenses associated with hosting a 22-23 minute display, including chain-link fencing, sound equipment and personnel, as well as security for the event. In the packet, there is also a note that this amount doesn’t include any additional event activation such as live music, food and beverage concessions and a family zone — all of which Salute to the USA had.
Should the town cancel the display entirely, the fee associated with it would total $13,500.
In the packet, it is expressed that the committee recommends forgoing the fireworks display to “instead design, develop and budget for a new and impactful event brand in the winter of 2023.”
The second item the committee is seeking direction on has to do with the Summer’s End event, which the town hosted for its inaugural year over Labor Day. This year, this event included a movie in the park, an arts festival, stand-up paddle board races and two concerts.
Going forward, the committee wants opinion of the council on whether or not the town should host a free, single-day Labor Day concert in 2022 as part of the “Summer’s End” brand. It is the committee’s opinion, as stated in the packet, that “the single-day free concert was an impactful bookend to the overall weekend of festivities in Nottingham Park and played a role in the winning launch of the new event brand.”
Avon’s Town Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12. You can join the meeting in person at Avon Town Hall (100 Mikaela Way) or virtually via Zoom. The joint meeting between the Culture, Arts and Special Events committee and town council is scheduled to begin at approximately 5:05 p.m.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.