The City of McAllen hosted the 25th Anniversary of the Texas Festival and Events Association Annual Conference this past weekend, bringing in festivals and events representatives from around the state as diverse and far away as Tomball Mud Fest; Ft. Worth Main St. Art Festival; Grapevine’s Grape Fest; Plano Balloon Fest; Poteet Strawberry Festival and even others closer to home, including Weslaco’s Texas Onion Fest; Fiesta Edinburg; Brownsville’s Mr. Amigo, Laredo’s Washington Birthday Celebration Association, and George West Storyfest and of course, as well-known as San Antonio’s Fiesta Flambeau Parade and St. Mary’s University Fiesta Oyster Bake.
The conference featured informative, entertaining and educational sessions, to help give organizers and event coordinators the tools and tips to better host their events. Topics ranged from Social Media Do’s and Don’ts; Niche Marketing; Event Security and Credit Card Usage Best Practices, to name a few. Attendees also had an opportunity to earn continuing education credits from the Texas Event Management Institute (TEMI) through various workshops hosted by the City of McAllen. TEMI credit counted as Advanced Development Elective for the Certified Festivals and Events Association (CFEA). Additional Thursday sessions for the TEMI Track-CFEA Credit and Continuing Education Units were also offered from South Texas College in McAllen, Texas.
While the annual conference offers guidance, suggestions, ideas and networking opportunities, the highlight of the annual gathering is the Kaliff Marketing Awards, which recognizes the best of the best amongst the various Texas festivals and events. In fact, the City of Mcallen earned 76 awards for the various events the municipality hosts within their respective budget categories, 50 total top prizes including a total of 35 awards for the McAllen Holiday Parade. The McAllen Holiday Parade was once again named the Best Parade in Texas, beating out both San Antonio’s King William Parade and the Fiesta Flambeau Parade. Additionally, Quinta Mazatlán received 20 awards for the festivals they host and another 11 awards were earned by the McAllen Convention Center, while the McAllen Marathon Scott Crane Memorial Run received seven awards. Finally, the State of the City website, Keep McAllen Beautiful’s Volunteer Program and the McAllen Parks & Recreation Summer Guide also received one each.
“TFEA is proud to help all of our festivals and events in the state grow bigger and better, not only for the thousands of attendees and sponsors, but also, for the economic impact these festivals and events have in our local communities,” said Mary Margaret Campbell, Executive Director of the George West Storyfest and this year’s incoming TFEA chair.
According to the organization, the impact of festivals and special events in the communities they serve is multifaceted. Their power to be an economic engine, generating direct spending by unique visitors and the redistribution of that wealth through the community, is well-documented.
A recent study by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley found the economic impact of the McAllen Holiday Parade in the city alone is $14.1 million, while Fiesta Oyster Bake, hosted and organized by the St. Mary’s University Alumni Association as a scholarship fundraiser, provided 68 students with $390,000 in scholarship money in 2017 alone, according to Pete Hansen, Executive Director of Alumni Relations for St. Mary’s University.
Events of all sizes, from small community gatherings to mega-festivals, infuse new dollars into the economy, generate jobs and create significant tax revenues.
But festivals and events also share the unique ability to create social capital, such as community pride, destination brand awareness, media activity and stakeholder engagement. While social capital is difficult to track and measure, it is equally as difficult to replace in building a vibrant sense of place.
“Communities become known for the festivals and events they host,” said Kay Wolf, CFEE, TFEA Executive Director and founding member.
This year’s conference was so successful that immediately after the conclusion of this year’s conference, the organization voted to bring the conference back to McAllen next year, a first in the organization’s 25-year history.
With just over 275 attendees registered for the two and half-day conference, out-of-town festival and event representatives fill 400 hotel rooms over the four-night stay of the annual meeting. Conference attendees raved about the “McAllen hospitality” from hotel, restaurant and retail employees, City of McAllen employees and private citizens, citing the quality and features of the Mcallen Convention Center as just some of the reasons why they will be returning to McAllen for next year’s event.