It’s been a banner year for events in the CSRA and with that comes a healthy chunk of money collected through accommodation taxes. Building on those success stories and creating a new event resulted in requests for dividing up the bounty.
The funds are collected through the state’s 2% accommodations tax (ATAX) from visitors staying in hotels and similar lodgings. North Augusta’s pot has grown steadily. In 2021, the city had $76,065 to distribute. That climbed to $140,450 last year.
Members of the North Augusta Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee reviewed requests during its November 14 meeting for a slice of what is now a $154,603 pie to help fund events in the city in 2024.
“I think it’s probably a result of the success we’ve had with some of these events we had, because I think the city continues to grow. And those of us in the hospitality and the entertainment business, I think we’ve seen we had a great year,” said John Felak, the owner of Lookaway Inn who chairs the ATAX committee.
Requests came from city departments and non-profit groups and one from Aiken County’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. In all, $177,397 was requested for nine projects. Most of the projects are approved by the committee to receive the requested amounts which must now be approved by the city council.
Several of the events are the largest attendance North Augusta draws each year. One of them is the Jack-O-Lantern Jubilee, held on Georgia Avenue in the downtown area.
Rick Meyer, director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, told committee members this year’s jubilee, the 37th time for the annual event, drew thousands into the city.
“Our attendance was off the chart,” he said. “We stepped up our game a little bit with entertainment with bringing in artists on Friday night. And for the first time ever, the Jack-O-Lantern Jubilee sold out of crafts, vendor spaces, and food spaces prior to the month of October. We sold out before but never that fast.”
Meyer said the goal is to continue growing the event and asked the committee for $35,000 to help cover the increasing costs.
“Because anytime you do that, you’re looking at sound costs go up. Police security goes up. Everything you do expands when you draw crowds, like we drew for this year,” he explained.
The PRT department also applied for two projects to support next year’s Peach Jam tournament at Riverview Park. The tournament is part of Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) series and has been a mainstay at the park for 27 years.
The department requested $40,000 to refinish the floors in all of the park’s basketball courts. Next year’s tournament will also be expanding, going from seven days to nine days, which will encompass two weekends. The department requested $18,250 to help defray the increased costs associated with the longer tournament. Both of those will be recommended to receive the full amount requested.
The smallest request came from the Aiken County Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, just $1,147. It will be used to help pay for a new event the county wants to launch next year at Langley Pond.
“We decided we wanted to run our own regatta in the fall, when the weather’s really good for that,” Jim Buckalew, assistant director of the county’s PRT outlined for the committee. “It has never been done before. It’s a boat race for singles, doubles, and pairs that are called small boats. It’s a niche-type event that we’ve never tried. But we want to try because I’ve gotten a lot of interest just by word of mouth saying we’re thinking about this. And they’re starting to line up wanting to do it.”
The committee will recommend council members provide the full amount to the event, even though it is outside the city limits.
“We like to center on items, on things that are here close in North Augusta right in our boundaries, but we also benefit from those events that are close to us,” Felak explained. “Anything that happens in the county, we have a much better opportunity to benefit from that as well. And then reinvest those monies back into the tourism effort.”