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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a member of the Washington County Tourist Development Council. The member was David Rich, not Chris Ellis. We regret the error. 

As things now stand, community events that occur in Washington County tend to only be for one day.

The Tourist Development Council, though, mentioned the possibility of having events that lasted longer in order to generate more local revenue during a meeting on March 7.

Fostering multi-day events was brought up by Chairman Ted Everett when reimbursing the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida for ArtKidDoo, a children’s art fest, in Chipley came up. ArtKidDoo is a one-day event. This year’s event was scheduled for February but rescheduled to October due to adverse weather then. 

“We do a lot of one-day events,” Everett said. “We give a lot of money out to one-day events and we get nothing in return as far as bed tax.”

Everett said he has discussed the matter with TDC Director Heather Lopez.

“As the chairman of the TDC, our job, (Lopez’s) job is to bring heads to beds. That’s how we survive,” Everett said in reference to hotel and lodging stays. “I don’t have an issue with any of the events we have done but typically it’s $1000. I’m willing to bet any of y’all here that you can’t tell me we made over $1000 in bed tax in the last five years with these one-day events.”

Should the lodging tax not be increased, the amount of one-day events the TDC invests in should be cut, he said.

“If we’re spending money and we’re not getting a return on our investment, what are we doing? Everett said. “It doesn’t work in business. .. At the end of the day, you just can’t give and give and not get a return.”

TDC member and Chipley Mayor Tracy Andrews said there won’t be a return on such events but there is an “ability to determine what is going to be a feasible sponsorship for some of these events.”

“No one ever said you have to give $1000,” Andrews said. “If you give $250, it’s $250 more that they’ll have to support their thing. We have to decide this is one of those miscellaneous types of events. We might have given $1000 for years. We’re not obligated to continue to give $1000. We give with what aligns with our mission and what we see.”

Andrews said ArtKidDoo is a “great event” for kids.

“Specifically, they probably could get more from other organizations because it gears towards the target audience,” Andrews said. “I think we have to use discretion when they want [us] to sponsor. We have to look at our budget.”

Everett said he agreed with Andrews.

TDC Member David Rich said the problem in the county is all the services are in Chipley.

“From my house where my trail-riding business is, it’s 24 miles to the super Wal-Mart in Lynn Haven,” Rich said. “It’s 24 miles to the super Wal-Mart in Chipley. I am dead-smack in the middle. I get maybe 10 people a year that come riding with me that are spending the night in Chipley. All of the rest of my tourist traffic is coming from Panama City and Panama City Beach.”

Rich further said the TDC needs to ask organizers of single-day events how they can help turn them into multi-day events.

“There needs to be more private buy-in,” Everett said.

The Watermelon Festival is the biggest event in terms of money that the county benefits from, Lopez said.

“I get calls two, three weeks out, people asking what hotels do you have,” Lopez said. “They’re coming down from Georgia, from Alabama. They generate overnight stays. … People are coming because there are name artists. It’s free. They can come in on a Friday, go to the concert, stay overnight, and go to the festival the next day.”

“They’re not spending the money on a concert ticket,” she continued. “They can spend it on a hotel night.”

After 23 years of having a TDC, it was time to have the sort of reflection that happened during the March 7 meeting, Everett said.

“We never had this type of introspective conversation,” Everett said. “Let’s see if we can make some changes in the amounts of the grants, what type of grants. Let’s look at it all.”

Rich said the TDC is reacting to people coming to them and requesting funding for events.

“We need to reach out to groups,” Rich said. “We have to go find somebody that’s doing something someplace else to try to get them to expand and come into this market.”

Events can fit with who and what Washington County is, he said.

Everett said he is not trying to put off anybody in the county with events.

“We like events. That’s why we sponsor,” he said. “We pay a lot of money for events. I want to make sure as the chairman and the board that we’re spending the money wisely.”

The TDC ultimately voted to reimburse the Early Learning Coalition $1000 for printing and marketing costs for ArtKidDoo. The Early Learning Coalition will not request further money from the TDC for the rescheduled event and will leave the TDC logo on marketing info for the upcoming rescheduled day.

Rich made the motion to approve the requested reimbursement and said he “begrudgingly” did so.

In other news from the TDC meeting, the TDC approved a maintenance agreement for the Washington County Heritage Trail with Adam Monk, who lives in Graceville and is said to be an “avid” geocacher.

“He reached out to me because we’re starting to get a lot of maintenance requests on our trail,” Lopez said. “(The caches) get stolen. They get lost. Some of the places we have them have flooded and floated away because they’re on the rivers and creek.” 

Geocaching is akin to an adult treasure hunting game where people hide containers and then use GPS to find the containers. They can sign a log sheet afterwards saying they found it. 

Geocaching spots, including in Washington County, are available at Geocachers can log points.

The maintenance agreement with Monk is a volunteer basis and he will not be paid for it. Should the agreement not work out, the agreement has a 30-day clause to terminate the arrangement. 

Monk will have to provide a monthly report.