Roswell City Council on Thursday passed a resolution recognizing signature local events that will receive special assistance from the city.
The move came after much discussion among councilors and members of the public in attendance.
The motion to pass the signature events resolution passed unanimously — with an explanation from Councilor Savino Sanchez, who questioned calling the events ‘signature events’ instead of just having the council state support for them.
Councilors Jacob Roebuck and Caleb Grant added that council wants to continue the conversation about what a signature event is, and City Manager Joe Neeb agreed on the importance of the definition.
Councilors Barry Foster, Juan Oropesa and Sanchez voiced concerns about limiting the number of signature events to four, which means to include a new event another one would have to be removed. However, Neeb said the city can add other events outside of the signature events policy.
The resolution passed Thursday included the UFO Festival, Hike It & Spike It, the Eastern New Mexico State Fair and Cinco de Mayo with Rise Over Roswell.
“One of the things you’ll hear from me often enough is that we need to protect our core services as well, too,” Neeb said. “Anytime we are taking money out of the general fund it could affect our public safety, it could affect our streets — it can affect all of that. So having a method that we manage that process is so important for that.”
Juanita Jennings, public affairs director, said additional funds are from the general fund and not the lodgers tax, though some events have received lodgers tax funds in the past. She said the funds will need to be allocated from the current general fund budget, and Finance Director Monica Garcia confirmed an amended budget line for this amount will be sought at the next Finance Committee meeting. Jennings clarified that total amount allocated for the signature events would not exceed $200,000 in cash and in-kind support — at least $104,000 of that total would be in the form of in-kind services.
Roebuck thanked those who organized the events and said it was an honor for the city to have them. Councilor Jeanine Corn Best also thanked the Eastern New Mexico Fair for 99 years of service.
All speakers during the meeting’s public participation segment thanked the council for their consideration.
The council was reminded that the UFO Festival is a collaborative effort between other community entities like the Roswell Chamber of Commerce and the Hispano Chamber and events at the International UFO Museum and Research Center and the GalactiCon at the Roswell Mall.
“With the exception of the city staff that is paid, everyone is a volunteer,” Juliana Halvorson said repeseneting the UFO Festival. “We don’t make any money from this — that’s not our goal. Our goal is to show people what Roswell has to offer, get them into our town, have them spend their money — we want them to spend the money in the businesses and support the businesses, the hotels, the restaurants and that’s our goal.”
After the resolution was passed, Halvorson said she was grateful for the city’s support.
Molly Boyles, president of MainStreet Roswell, said the UFO Festival brought in 38,000 visitors, including international travelers, and that the committee invests hundreds of hours to make the festival a reality.
“We really appreciate the city’s sponsorship and any monies you can help us with — and especially the services,” Boyles said. “Having to pay for things like traffic cones and police help would be very difficult on our committee to be able to make it happen. We realize it is a burden on the city in some ways so we greatly appreciate your help. Thank you.”
John Crocker spoke on behalf of Christie Mann, president of the Hispano Chamber, to petition the city for assistance with Cinco De Mayo and the Rise over Roswell Balloon Rally. Crocker said these events were organized previously by the city as Party on the Pecos and the Old Timers Balloon Rally, and that Neeb and Jennings asked the two chambers to continue the events.
“This event should be recognized as one of the city’s signature events because it is already recognized as an event that is important to the city,” Crocker read from Mann’s statement. “That is why it should be continued. Due to the short timeframe we had to prepare and organize the event, this year we kept it simple and followed the basic outline of years past, but have plans to expand the event.”
Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell, said Peppers Grill & Bar told Lay they had the best year of sales in the establishment’s history during the UFO Festival and another downtown business sold more in four days than they had in six months.
Lay said the UFO Festival brings in gross receipts tax and last year all lodgings, including RV parks, bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels were sold out. Drawing attention to the impact of publicity from media outlets, Lay said there were 27 media groups present and four television programs, and that two Expedition Unknown episodes had 9.7 million viewers. Lay also listed the 20 live interviews by numerous media outlets.
“When you look at the impact that this festival has on promotion and what it could bring for our community because they don’t just come to the festival, but it makes them want to come to Roswell — not just during those three days but possibly throughout the year, and impacts tourism,” Lay said.
City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.