Next month, the Roswell Arts Festival could draw 10,000 people or so to the town square. In addition to buying art, festival goers will probably spend money elsewhere in Roswell, benefiting local businesses.
That’s what festival organizers are banking on, anyway. And it’s why Roswell’s parks department has joined cities across the nation in leveraging events and festivals to draw people into town and boost tourism spending.
Throughout the year, there are also lacrosse and baseball tournaments, gymnastics meets, bridge tournaments and a number of festivals at Roswell’s three historic homes – , and .
“All these events are causing people to spend money in Roswell. There’s no doubt about that,” said Morgan Timmis, Historic and Cultural Affairs manager for Roswell.
Just how much money they spend is unknown. Neither the city nor the state has been able to capture any numbers for Roswell. But that is about to change. The is going to start handing out postcards to people who come to events, asking them the question that officials would most love to know: Where do you spend your money in Roswell?
“That is definitely something we’re looking to do,” said Dotty Etris, executive director of the Roswell Convention & Visitors Bureau.
While she doesn’t have hard numbers yet, she knows anecdotally that a lacrosse tournament held each May is a big hit. “After the lacrosse tournament, everybody’s saying people are eating out, they’re spending the night. They love the lacrosse tournament,” Etris said.
If you look outside Roswell, tourism is big business in Georgia. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, tourism is the fifth largest employer in the state, with a total economic impact of $45 billion, supporting more than 391,000 jobs, or 10.4 percent of all payroll employment in Georgia.
And while there are no tallies specifically for Roswell, the state reports that Fulton County attracted $6.5 billion in tourism dollars in 2010. That’s a little less than one-third of the state’s total tourism revenue of $21 billion. And those numbers are expected to go up for 2011, with preliminary estimates showing a 7.7 increase in Fulton County, according to the state economic development agency.
It’s not just hotels that benefit from tourists, said Bobbie Daniels, spokeswoman for the . When people come to town, they eat on Canton Street. They fill up their cars with gas. Maybe they take their kids to the movies. Maybe they buy clothing and gifts.
For a girls’ gymnastics meet, there are an average of 600 participants. About 10 percent of them stay in hotels, but many more eat out. Add one or two parents for each kid, then add eight to 16 judges. Multiply that by five tournaments a year.
And there are also boys’ gymnastics, baseball and tennis tournaments, bridge tournaments at the , and the North Fulton Golden Games in conjunction with Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Milton and Sandy Springs.
“[Tourists] roam around and they see places like Canton Street and I really think they come back. Even people who live in Roswell – they are going to dine out before or after an event,” Daniels said.
Events such as the arts festival bring money directly to the parks department. Nearly $1 million has been raised since the festival started in 1966, Roswell Councilwoman Nancy Diamond told Patch in an e-mail. Those proceeds have all been put back into Roswell’s parks and programs. As early as 1967, the proceeds paid for a Waller Park ball field. More recently, the money bought land for Grimes Bridge Park, helped pay for a “sprayground” and playground equipment at other parks. The money has also funded the Roswell Visual Arts Center, Riverside Park and the Adult Recreation Center.
While tourism revenue is a big draw, though, the festivals and events are important for other reasons.
Gymnastics tournaments have grown because people who live in Roswell want “elite gymnastics,” Daniels said. “There’s a need first. The [financial] impact on Roswell is a huge icing on the cake,” she said.
Councilwoman Diamond added, “These festivals showcase some of the elements that make Roswell special. I recently talked with a business owner who mentioned they chose to locate in Roswell because it has a soul. That isn't something any one of us can create. It happens organically, over time with people who have a heart for their community.”
Roswell parks department events participation [Source: Roswell parks department]
Girls – average 600 participants – 5 tournaments/year
Boys – average 400 participants – 2 tournaments/year
8-16 judges, who stay in hotels
Roswell Youth Lacrosse Invitational (May)
10,000-12,000 people (participants and parents)
Roswell Roundup Baseball Tournament (June)
50-60 teams, 2,000-4,000 people
Duplicate Bridge Tournament, Adult Recreation Center
300 people/day over 5 days
Social Bridge Tournament, Adult Recreation Center
Riverside Sounds Concert series
15,000-20,000 people from metro Atlanta
Roswell Arts Festival, Town Square – 10,000 people
Fall Farm Day, Smith Plantation – 750 to 1,000 people
Lavender Festival, Barrington Hall – 750 to 1,000 people
Spring Garden Fair, Brook Hall – 750 to 1,000 people
Annual Trilogy Trolley Crawl – 1,000 people