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Tourism, Visitors Bureau Comes Under Fire

POSTED August 15, 2012 8:27 a.m.

The Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau (OTVB) continues to draw fire with its decisions, this time turning down sponsorship of the Sierra View Music Fest in lieu of financial support toward a first time, developing October event – the Oakdale Climbers Festival.

According to Jim Brunk, promoter of the annual music festival, the cost to the city for this decision was at least 80 to 100 hotel-motel room nights that were subsequently arranged with the Doubletree Hotel in Modesto. The room tax and 2 percent transient fee that would have gone to city and OTVB coffers is now collected by Modesto as well as restaurant and related patronage for the stays.

At the June 20 OTVB meeting, Brunk made a presentation of his Aug. 24 and 25 event and asked the group for sponsorship with a reduced room rate at local motels of $69 per night for those coming for the music festival.

According to Brunk, he wasn’t given any reason for being turned down and left the meeting disappointed.

“If the tourism board can’t support us with what we bring in, what is the tourism board about?” asked Brunk when contacted. “This is a huge drawing that the city is missing out on. They (OTVB board) weren’t even aware of what the Sierra Music Fest was. It’s been on the radio and I also sent them a video.”

The Fourth Annual Sierra Music Fest is scheduled for two nights this year and draws thousands to the area. Friday, Aug 24 will be dedicated to an evening of country showcasing artist Gloriana, with Saturday, Aug. 25 the rock-focused night featuring legendary Night Ranger. Neither performer is considered small time.

“I don’t think a rock wall climb is going to bring in that many people,” said Brunk. “I got the door slammed in my face, but the show will go on. Oakdale has the greatest people supporting the festival.”

The Sierra View Music Fest has raised thousands of dollars over the years for the Heidi Brunk Foundation, which provides music scholarships for local high school students. In the spring of 2009, Jim Brunk awarded the first scholarship to Michael Alstad of Oakdale High School. In 2010 the foundation awarded four scholarships to students from Ripon, Escalon and Oakdale. In 2011, five scholarships were awarded to music students, including three Oakdale students and two students from Modesto schools.

Oakdale Cowboy Museum Director Christie Camarillo was at the June 20 meeting and admitted she was surprised by the board’s decision in giving money for the rock climbing event since the presenter had previously received funding for a car show earlier in the year.

“During Ramona’s talk she said the majority of people who would attend were outdoor types with little money who wouldn’t be staying at hotels, but camping by the river,” Camarillo said of the event, proposed by local council hopeful Ramona Howard. Camarillo added that Brunk also did an excellent presentation for a well-known event in Oakdale at the June 20 session. Ideally, both events could have received some financial support.

Virginia Camacho, secretary for the OTVB, said they provided $2,000 in funding for the rock climb because it was the first event of its kind. She said Brunk asked for more money than they could afford and local hotels are very busy during the summer to provide a discounted room rate.

“We have a very limited $40,000 budget and we’re cautious where the money goes,” Camacho said. “I was told by members in the community that the (music) event wasn’t going to bring in outsiders. We had not heard of it before Mr. Brunk approached us.”

Camacho added that in October, there aren’t many events to promote for the city and felt the climbers’ festival would be the best option. She stated that the event would be attractive to outdoor enthusiasts who would “camp out under the stars.”

Rock Climb Event Chair Steve Grossman said he expects the free event to attract about 500 people. He said it would basically be a symposium at the Oakdale Community Center with speakers throughout the weekend.

“A lot of the people will be travelling back and forth,” said Grossman when asked about hotel stays. “Others I think will be camping outside of town.”

“It’s great that money for the scholarships comes from the music festival,” added Camacho. “But the OTVB is to bring in money to the community for city and business benefits in tax revenue.”

Jennifer Mullen of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau said the focus of a visitors bureau is to bring a multitude of people into the town to generate sales in hotels, restaurants and other services like fuel and store sales.

“The key is to put heads in beds,” Mullen said for sponsored outside events to be successful. “It’s great for us that Sierra (music fest) is putting people over here.”

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