Festivals are what makes Guthrie a great place to live

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Guthrie – A Festival City

What does Guthrie celebrate? 89er’s Day, Bluegrass and Americana Music and Victorian Christmas — just to name a few themes for festivals held annually throughout the town of Guthrie.

James Long
Guthrie realtor and businessman James Long shares his weekly column with Guthrie News Page.

All these goings on are part of what makes Guthrie a great place to live. Besides being fun, well-managed festivals and events offer a host of economic and social benefits to communities.

Tourism has the opportunity to bring communities together and instill a sense of community pride and knowledge of their history, as well as strengthen relationships between organizations and individuals.

The economic benefits of festivals are easiest to see and most often cited–festivals attract visitors, which stimulates the growth of tourism and other businesses in the area.

Boosting the economy

By definition, festivals attract visitors. And visitors spend money, which boosts the local economy both on and off the festival site. On-site spending includes admission fees, parking fees, food, beverage and souvenir sales — and more.

But off-site spending related to festivals generates revenue for communities, too. For example, visitors stop at local gas stations, restaurants and the list goes on.

Overnight visitors provide another source of off-site revenue to communities that host festivals.  They stay in our bed and breakfasts, our hotels, and motels.  They pay an additional tax that helps our community market itself as a destination community as well as helps improve our parks.

Festivals also provide free marketing and advertising for local businesses as visitors talk about their fun experiences when they go back home. If visitors post comments and photos about their experiences on Facebook, Instagram or other social media, that’s even better. The economic benefits of successful festivals ripple throughout a local economy–affecting tourism and non-tourism- related businesses alike.

Fostering community pride

Planning and conducting festivals involves many members of the community, which yields a number of social benefits.

Experts agree that hometown pride is a critical factor in the development and improvement of any community. Residents with community pride are more likely to speak positively about their town to others and to volunteer with organizations and activities that support the common good.

Festivals promote community pride by celebrating things that make a town special and evoke good feelings.  Every year we celebrate our history with 89’er Days, and we kick it off with a big Chuck Wagon Feed, no Chuck Wagons anymore, but it is a Feed no less.  But in a sense we celebrate our history year round just by keeping our Historic District intact.  Our history and heritage is on display 365.  Byron Berline has been doing his International Bluegrass Festival in Guthrie for many years as well, and draws people in from all over the world.  Our newest festival, The Queen of The Prairie which will be taking place this May 1st – 2nd is generating ticket sales all throughout the US and Canada. I’m sure it to will become another Guthrie mainstay.

Strengthening relationships

A third social benefit of festival sponsorship is stronger relationships within a community. Most of the relationship-building occurs in the festival planning phase. This is where the bonds among public and private organizations, government, and neighborhood groups are forged and where connections among elected officials, staff, volunteers and interested residents are made.

Assuming everything else goes well, the payoff to this relationship-building is a successful festival. But the benefits last well beyond the event, as people bring their connections and collective knowledge and skills to improve the community.

Connections are the “glue” that hold communities together; without them, a community stagnates and the quality of life declines. Experts call this glue social capital, so viewed through this lens— festival sponsorship increases the social capital that makes for healthy communities.

All this said, Guthrie is a great community to live, work and play. I want to thank Steve Gentling for all his hard work on 89’er Days, Byron Berline and his team for always putting on an outstanding festival and Christie and Shirley Clifford for making Guthrie home and bringing us another great opportunity to showcase our city. I personally feel privileged to list and sell homes here.

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