Case Study: The benefits of Council running a destination event

Parkes Elvis Festival: How a festival successfully transitioned from a volunteer-managed community event into a regional hallmark festival run by Local Government.

The 25-year-old Parkes Elvis festival is Council-run; a 355 section of Council with a committee chaired by the mayor, and including community, chamber, and Council representatives.

The volunteer committee approached Council when the size of the event outgrew their skills and capacity. Council saw the value of the event to the community. The transition was a smooth and positive process.

Council still works closely with original volunteers who now run portfolios (elements of the festival) while Council can effectively manage WH&S, marketing and sponsorship. Council support and resourcing is one of the primary factors contributing to the festival’s success.

Council has a >$500,000 budget for the festival with the goal of raising this back in sponsorship and ticket sales (a cost-neutral aim which is achieved each year). In addition, Council provides the salaries of 2 FTE, plus road crew for set up and traffic management (as Council would provide for any event). The staff are the Event Director and Marketing and Sponsorship.

The festival now attracts 26,000 visitors to Parkes and pumps $13 million into local hotels, shops and tourism attractions. Media reach is 214 million.

With a three-year contribution by Destination NSW for professional and strategic marketing, over the past three years, visitor numbers to the Parkes Elvis Festival have soared by an incredible 32 per cent. Parkes Elvis Festival is one of Destination NSW’s greatest event success stories.

Since Council intervention there have been positive and negative outcomes. The governance and reputational benefits allow the festival to access a different level of sponsorship. Marketing is much more professional and strategic. However, the community are less likely to give to what is not a volunteer organisation. For example, supplier quotes go up each year. 

Cristy HoughtonComment