A lesser turnout this year has Syracuse Winterfest looking for taxpayer help, say organizers.
“We have looked into federal and government funding but we haven’t found anything to fit our niche,” says Bill Cooper, president of Syracuse Winterfest.
This year’s Winterfest made between $18,000 to about $20,000 and sold 5,000 tickets for events, he said. The number of people in attendance could be more due to free events that don’t require the purchase of tickets, he said. This was much less than the turnout and revenue from last year, which was between $40,000- $45,000, said Cooper.
Syracuse’s Winterfest is a 28-year-old tradition that celebrates winter. Winterfest draws the second-largest audience in Central New York, according to the festival’s website. This year’s Winterfest ran from Feb. 13 through Feb. 23. In Downtown Syracuse, families took over the ice-skating rink. Hundreds scoured the city for The Post-Standard’s annual treasure hunt. And restaurants flavored the downtown air with their food cook-offs and drink mix-offs.
The festival is heavily promoted, including emails from local businesses to attract tourists. “Radio, TV, hotels are constantly sending out information to get visitors to the Winterfest,” said Cooper, the festival’s president. “Also, there are tours during this time from Ottawa, Pennsylvania, Virginia and California who get people to the Winterfest.”
Nikita Jankowski is the communications manager for the Syracuse Visitors and Convention Bureau. She says that so far they do not have much data about Winterfest and how it affects the city’s tourism industry or reputation. Jankowski says that the bureau does advertise Winterfest and posts pictures that attendees send them.
Up until four years ago, the Syracuse Winterfest was receiving grant money from the state, said festival president Cooper. The money came in grants of $5,000 from state Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, and the Syracuse Updowntowners , said Cooper.
The state’s financial problems mean lawmakers don’t have as much to give out, said Tiffany Latino, DeFrancisco’s spokesperson. “This is a difficult time for the state. If the money is available then the senator can secure a grant. Obviously for the last couple of years things have been tighter in the state and cuts have to be made. These events will be impacted by cuts,” said Latino.
Discretionary funds, or member items, are for non-profit organizations like Winterfest. These were cut from the state budget about four years ago, said DeFrancisco in a statement.
“I haven’t really been looking for grants since they cut it off,” said DeFranciscos. “I don’t exactly search until I hear rumors about them being available but I want Winterfest to be as self-sustaining as possible. ”
(Shantinique Brooks is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism with a political science minor.)