The event touted to put Oakdale on the map and to bring in “climbers from all over the world” resulted in extremely poor attendance of less than 300 and a profit of just $200 after the city invested $2000 in sponsorship for the affair.
Despite early advertisements of free registration to the first 400 and pre-event announcements that seating was filling up, the event failed to generate the hoped-for response.
At the Nov. 5 city council meeting event coordinator Ramona Howard admitted that the event did not produce the results expected. She pointed out a positive that 90 percent of those that attended were from out of town, which benefitted city hotels.
Reports by those who attended the festival on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27 said there were no more than 75 people inside the Gene Bianchi Community Center, and many of them were speakers or family members of those associated with the event.
“It looked like it was a total flop,” said Councilman-elect Farrell Jackson who stated he was told that many of the vendors had pulled out after the second day because of the attendance. “There’s a limit in this town what you can do with volunteers and donations, especially in this economy.”
Jackson said on both weekend days when he drove by the Community Center there was plenty of parking in the lot and only a couple of persons outside the doors.
“It didn’t look like anything special was happening there,” Jackson said.
“We need to put more thought and consideration into these types of proposals,” said Oakdale City Councilman Tom Dunlop. “When these things come before the city we need to scrutinize them. We have to ask, ‘What has this person produced and what were the results before?’”
Dunlop was critical of Howard, stating that no event proposed by her has come close to her projections.
In April of this year Howard coordinated a car show. Some have questioned if the 2500 attendance figure reported by Howard to the city for the event was accurate.
“The festival was a huge success in my opinion,” said Howard. “It brought in people from out of the area which was the goal.”
Howard denied that any vendors withdrew from the event, stating that she initially only planned to have them there on Saturday.
“It paid for itself and was never done before,” Howard said. “It was a huge deal for Oakdale.”
Both Dunlop and Jackson were critical of the Oakdale Travelers and Visitors Bureau for using city money to sponsor this type of event and its subsequent showing.
“Trying to mix this with government may or may not be doing the right thing,” said Jackson. “I see the OTVB using their funds wrong. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
In June, Jim Brunk condemned the OTVB for turning down sponsorship of his Sierra View Music Fest in lieu of financial support toward the first time, developing Oakdale Climbers Festival.
The Sierra Music Fest was held on two dates in August and brought in thousands of attendees both nights, benefitting a music scholarship program in honor of the late Heidi Brunk.
The OTVB has also had additional troubles with resignations from its recently appointed at-large members Walter Bulk of the Oakdale Cheese Factory and Jeff Goschen of the Yogurt Station.
Ironically, this month the OTVB announced that it had hired Howard as its administrator, a paid position.
“This (climbers’ festival) was to get a specific type of individual,” said Howard. “When you can gather 300 world class people from the climbers’ community, you’re doing well.”
Howard said she intends on putting on the event next year with a revised speaker arrangement. She also plans to add younger speakers to capture a broader and different audience.