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Summer Festivals Bolstering Economy

Website editor’s note: Memorial Day Weekend marks the start of festival season in Northern Arizona. In addition to several events memorializing fallen military men and women, there are numerous other events in the high country. Art in the Park is held at Wheeler Park in Downtown Flagstaff and the 19th Annual Zuni Festival is at the Museum of Northern Arizona.  The following article describes just some of the events held each season in Northern Arizona. 

Despite the May exodus of thousands of Northern Arizona University students and their contributions to the local economy, summer brings tourists, many of whom are attracted to the variety of festivals offered in the region.
A variety of diverse festivals and events are held between the months of May and August in the city, from those centered around holidays such as the Fourth of July parade in downtown Flagstaff, to those featuring music, food and fun.
Hullabaloo, held on June 2 in downtown’s Wheeler Park, is billed by Matt Ziegler, event organizer and the owner of Greenhouse Productions, as “a celebration of all things Flagstaff.” He says the event, in its third year, has a little bit of everything for everyone.
“We have live music all day,” Ziegler said. “We have giant puppets and a costume contest, as well as a cool kids area. We feature local vendors and food from local restaurants. We tend to focus on Flagstaff, to create something unique to our town. There’s a little bit of something for everybody.”
Beyond the beautiful weather Flagstaff is accustomed to seeing during the summer, Ziegler notes that Hullabaloo’s date serves a much more peculiar purpose: attracting a different audience.
“Certainly, weather is a big part of it,” Ziegler said. “There’s something nice about having NAU not in regular session. On the one hand, as a businessperson, it would be great to get as many people as we can at our event. We’d make more money,” he said. But Ziegler, like some other festival organizers, think a more mature group of festival-goers enhances the character of events.
Anne Wittke and her husband, Barry Malpas, agree that the weather is a deciding factor, as well as that there would be an absence of college students at their event, regardless of the date. They are the organizers for the Flagstaff Folk Festival, held on June 30 and July 1, which they describe as a multi-stage, all-day concert featuring a great variety of music.
Their date was also decided, in part, based on regional competition.
“We’ve jumped around a few weekends because, as it turns out, there are other festivals in the area,” Wittke said. “The Prescott Folk Festival is a biggie, and people would go to both festivals. In the past two years, we’ve coincided – we’ve been on the same weekend – which is an issue.”
Held much later in the summer, from Sept. 7-9, is the Route 66 Days Charity Car Show. Mark Strango, president of the Rt. 66 Car Club, says his event brings car enthusiasts to Flagstaff in droves.
“Big time,” Strango said. “Car show entrants come from all over: California, Colorado – we had one from as far away as Illinois, and another from Florida. When people bring in their car, they just don’t bring themselves: they bring their wives, girlfriends, significant others, family members – it’s a whole big thing.”
According to Strango, the show, also held in Wheeler Park, has a radial effect on surrounding restaurants and hotels.
“It affects downtown quite a bit with the money that’s put out,” Strango said.
The timing of the show, Strango says, is designed in part to take advantage of another city’s weather: Phoenix’s.
“It’s a good time,” Strango said. “It’s right after Labor Day weekend. A lot of the kids are back in school, and it’s still warm down in the Valley and surrounding areas; people want to come up to get out of the heat, and they want to escape to the cool pines. It seems like the most logical weekend to hold it.”
Unlike the other two festivals, Ziegler said a large portion of those attending were local to Flagstaff. However, he said he estimated a little under a thousand people visited Hullabaloo from elsewhere.
“Primarily, it’s locals,” Ziegler said. “We probably have as much as 20 percent [of our attendees] who come from out of town. Last year, we had about 4,500 [people total].”
Wittke said the unique layout of the Flagstaff Folk Festival encourages those visiting to engage with local businesses, especially restaurants and hotels.
“Because we run over the weekend, we don’t provide any camping facilities like other festivals in Colorado – or Pickin’ in the Pines, for instance,” Wittke said. “So, if people want to stay the entire weekend, they would need to either stay in a hotel, camp in the national forest [and] buy meals at local restaurants.”
Even though the festival is an entertainment venue within itself, Wittke noted that the festival has the potential to stimulate other entertainment providers in Flagstaff.
“Because we only run during the day, they have their evenings free,” Wittke said. “A lot of them, because they’ve been getting together and haven’t seen each other for a couple of months, will go out and hang out together. We think we stimulate the local economy in that way.” FBN

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