Thursday, October 13, 2011/lk
Whether you are a beer enthusiast or not, you probably noticed the hubbub of people and traffic downtown on Saturday in honor of "Hood River Hops Fest 2011."
Highlights? Thirty-eight breweries; seven food vendors; good weather; arts and crafts; low admission costs and foot-stomping music. No wonder the crowds were out in droves.
"We estimate attendance was at about 8,000 people," said Kerry Cobb, executive director of the Hood River Chamber of Commerce, when asked about the turn-out during this year's good weather event.
"We increased our revenue by 35 percent - far exceeding what we expected," she said.
The chamber took over full leadership of the event this year, implementing changes in strategy and execution - changes that apparently paid off.
Everyone entering the festival area was charged a fee, either $6 for those sampling beers, or $4 for designated drivers who remained alcohol-free but were allowed non-alcoholic refreshments.
The elimination of "no-pay/non-drinking" entrants seemed to eliminate the previous mug-sharing phenomenon of years past, most likely adding to the increased revenue figures.
"Also the city - (City Manager) Bob Francis - allowed us to set up tents and fences the day before, so things were more relaxed Saturday morning," said Cobb.
Cobb credits Nancy Carlson, this year's chamber festival event coordinator, for the success in meeting chamber goals of increased revenue and improved safety and security.
Another significant goal, according to Cobb, was to direct festival visitor activity into the downtown small-business zone.
"We really marketed that aspect of the festival this year way ahead of time," said Cobb. "We directed people to go into town for coffee, dinner and shopping."
Business owners have already reported back to the chamber that the effects of that marketing, and the option for "Hop-Festees" to come and go from event grounds, created more traffic and sales in the areas adjacent to the site.
Maija Yasui, Hood River County Commission on Children and Families Alcohol and Drug Prevention Coordinator, also reported positive results of this year's event.
"We did not see obviously inebriated people at the festival," she said. "The volunteer pourers were well-trained and were being true to the 2-ounce pour rule."
Overall, fewer beer samples are being offered as part of the admission price, but neither Yasui nor Cobb heard complaints.
"People were really enjoying themselves. Both the event organizers and the breweries themselves want to have this to be a fun and safe event," said Yasui.