New Bern is home to unique events, from the Great Trent River Raft Race niche to laid-back art rides that immerse people in the creative side of downtown.
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It also hosts larger festivals, such as MumFest, which gathered around 100,000 participants in 2019 and is scheduled for October 9-10.
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Each of New Bern’s festivals and events play a role in shaping the city and impacting its future, perhaps even more after Covid-19.
“I think these events are of crucial importance to the dynamism of the downtown area and to the economy of the downtown area,” said Lynne Harakal, Executive Director of Swiss Bear Inc. “We need the resurgence of activities, we need you to know, major conventions coming back to the region, all of this is critical to the overall and continued health of our businesses in the downtown area.
The Town of River Bend has planned and canceled its very first fireworks display this year due to expected bad weather. Historically, by hosting a parade for residents, the total cost of the fireworks display would have been $ 7,500, but they only had to pay the seller’s compensation fee of $ 800.
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They had a group lined up as the fireworks precursor with a $ 750 non-refundable deposit and chose to postpone them until later in the year.
However, the impact of the celebrations and events in the greater New Bern area far exceeds the price tag associated with each.
Dr Erick Byrd, professor in the Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism at the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC-Greensboro, said there are two types of festivals or events in small towns, and both are of equal value.
The first is aimed at residents and concerns the quality of life in the city, often inspiring pride in the community. The second aims to increase tourism and be an economic engine.
The latter brings in money from outside the community and is important to many small communities and their local organizations, Byrd said.
“They also help to showcase and showcase the destination and some of them become major attractions to attract visitors, so you look at the major impacts on your food and beverage industry, like your restaurants. and if you have local food trucks, ”Byrd said. . “You also have a major impact on your accommodation facilities and your retail business and see a lot of things as well as ancillary things from people stopping at the convenience store, buying things in the community. “
Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit NC, said tourists to the state often don’t choose a place based on an event, only around 3%, but they give people a reason to stay longer in a destination. .
“When people stay longer, they spend more, have a greater impact on the community and that also gives them a reason to come back. It really gives people a connection to the community and the return of that regular visitor is a huge benefit as well, ”Tuttell said.
Without as many attractions as other major tourist states and more known for their outdoor beauty, North Carolina’s festivals are a reason for tourists to return, Tuttell said.
Besides the short-term goals of boosting businesses and increasing the revenue of the hospitality industry, festivals and events can have long-term bonuses that are perhaps even greater.
“I think there is also a long term benefit in that more people will get attached to this community, emotionally, and you have the potential to retire, get relocations or even start a business. new business, ”Tuttell said.
People who attend an event or festival year after year become familiar with the city and may notice the need for a certain type of business and start it.
Bike MS: Historic New Bern Ride, scheduled to take place September 11-12, already has 912 participants with a goal of $ 1,150,000. This event draws large numbers of locals and outsiders to the charm of the restaurants and shops of downtown New Bern. It also benefits hotels and guest houses in the region.
The 41st MumFest, if it could have happened last year during Covid-19, is expected to return this year with an expense budget of $ 103,300.
“The aim of the festival, from the very beginning, has been to attract people to the city center and get people to familiarize themselves with our city center if they hadn’t been and to give it to them. want to come back once the festival is not here, that’s really the goal, ”said Harakal.
Mumfest is historically the second biggest weekend for downtown businesses, behind Black Friday, Harakal said. In the past they’ve brought in ATMs for the weekend and from those extra machines people have withdrawn over $ 80,000. It doesn’t take into account the money people got from standing machines, or brought in, or credit card transactions.
MumFeast, an adaptation of the biggest festival started under Covid-19 restrictions, will also return this year, on October 15-16. This event will feature a food truck rodeo, dozens of street vendors, live music and, of course, a weekend full of street feasting – Middle, Pollock and Craven streets.
The street cafes, street meals that take place every weekend in downtown New Bern, have remained beneficial for restaurants and businesses that can and do choose to participate, Harakal said. Some restaurants, however, find it difficult to participate due to staff issues.
As evidenced by the growth of events like Beary Merry Christmas, she said New Bern’s celebrations and festivals are bringing people back.
A key part of every successful event or festival is the community’s understanding and knowledge of why they have it, Byrd said.
“Every festival, every event in a community should have a purpose, a reason behind it,” Byrd said. “I think that’s the biggest negative I’ve seen, is that there are communities that have a festival just because they always had it.”
If a community understands why they need the event, who their market is and who their attendees are, then it is easier to overcome any inconvenience that arises.
Tuttell added that if an entire community is engaged in an event, issues, such as disruption of daily life and waste, are easier to mitigate.
Prior to Covid-19, Byrd said the number of festivals across the state was increasing, but many that were not financially stable will not return. This will however lead to a better and more sustainable festival inventory.
Tuttell said festivals will become more and more attractive in the future as he has seen cities find more interesting ways to celebrate what makes them unique, from liver porridge to oyster festivals.
“Over the next few years the events will be even more significant as they give places back that sense of community, much of which I think was lost during Covid-19. People had to stay… it was like hibernation, ”Tuttell said. “I think festivals are going to play a key role in making people feel like life is back to normal and once you have that comfort, that sense of community, then I think it benefits all of you. community.”