Cowboy festival could be retooled out of existence

Mary Kaye performs on the porch of Genoa Station on May 2 for Genoa Cowboy Festival.

Mary Kaye performs on the porch of Genoa Station on May 2 for Genoa Cowboy Festival.

An effort to adjust the business model to make Genoa’s annual Cowboy Festival profitable could result in something different.

Genoa Town Board Chairman Dave Whitgob asked board members on Tuesday if they would be opposed to the idea of replacing the festival with a single concert.

Whitgob said a concert where 1,000 people could attend would be far easier to organize and more profitable than Cowboy, which lost money in 2013.

Town Manager Phil Ritger said a $5,000 sponsorship from 1862 David Walley’s came in, bringing the total for the 2014 festival up to $10,700.

He said that wouldn’t quite cover the town’s administrative costs of preparing for Cowboy.

“It just doesn’t pencil out,” he said.

Ritger pointed out that Christmas in the Sierra, which requires little staff or volunteer time, nets the town $3,500, a third of the revenue that Cowboy generates.

The goal of a new business model is to retool Cowboy so that it makes $50,000 in three years.

Nevada’s oldest settlement supports itself mainly through the annual Candy Dance festival. Cowboy Festival was established in 2011 as a supplement to Candy Dance because the town feared the larger event might not continue its success.

“This is a complicated event,” Whitgob said. “It’s not like Candy Dance. An alternative might be a one-night concert at a time of year when you wouldn’t need a tent and could sell 1,000 seats.”

Part of the challenge is finding an act that would fill the seats for a reasonable ticket price.

Whitgob said a concert would be a fraction of the work devoted to the Cowboy Festival, and could see twice the revenue.

Board member Nancy Aten asked rhetorically whether the point of Cowboy was to make money for the town or to bring people to Carson Valley.

“I think the main purpose is to make money for the town,” she said. “I favor looking at alternatives.”

Board member Trent Tholen said ticket prices tend to drive whether he attends a concert.

“I’m not saying this is a bad idea, I’m just looking for more specific details,” he said.

Ritger said Cowboy represents a large strain on the town staff and resources.

“I want to be clear that the town staff will support the event if you go forward,” he said.

He said moving the Cowboy event to another time of year isn’t possible due to Candy Dance, which is Sept. 27-28 this year.

“You couldn’t move Cowboy if you wanted to, because it bumps up against Candy Dance, which actually makes money,” he said. The two events differ because the town must pay for Cowboy first, while Candy Dance raises its money up front through vendor fees.

Town resident Dan Aynesworth, who has volunteered for the festival since it began, said the town board needs to make a decision soon.

He described himself as the event’s biggest fan, but said the planning is so elaborate the town doesn’t have the horsepower to do it.

The committee working on the Cowboy business model will meet again and bring back a formal recommendation to the Genoa Town Board at its Aug. 5 meeting.


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