Jacaranda Festival makeover concepts get public airing
"THE financial reality is that if you continue to run things the same as 2015 there won't be a Jacaranda Festival in five years' time."
Those were the sobering words delivered by consultant Krista Hauritz at the public presentation on Tuesday night at the Grafton District Services Club where she shared her final report on how to "take traditions into the future".
Ms Haurtiz had spent the past few months exploring the festival she knew little about when she began her consultancy appointment last year - a joint initiative by the Jacaranda Committee and Clarence Valley Council.
Since then Ms Hauritz attended the 2015 festival to get an outsider's view, delved into its history and spoke to locals for countless hours, to come up with her findings and map out a plan to help grow the festival and keep it relevant.
The first and most obvious change Ms Hauritz announced was a new festival program structure that will see this year's event shortened to run across nine days rather than 16.
She recommended that the traditional start to the festival - the Jacaranda Ball - be held earlier in the year, perhaps April, to officially launch the 2016 festival and introduce the candidates.
Also handed out during the meeting was the draft concept plan for traditional October/November period, the first Saturday in the new nine-day program kicking off with the Parade of Youth and Children's Party in the morning followed by the Queen Crowning that evening and the Dragon Boats on Sunday.
The following and final weekend would see Friday's Venetian Carnival, Float Parade on Saturday and Fun Run on Sunday.
Ms Haurtiz said the middle of the week would also offer a fuller, tighter program, to help retain visitors and emulate the community spirit that occurs on Jacaranda Thursday. "Lots of fun and a little bit crazy."
Throughout the week school performances, daily royal appearances and a central station for visitors' inquiries and ticketing at Market Square would help fill the weekday void and provide anchor point for visitors during the festival.
She highlighted the importance of catering for the influx of Asian visitors during this period and the changing consumer trends where people demanded more choices including healthier cuisine options and ample seating.
Ms Haurtiz said running a successful festival came at financial cost and recommended several options for securing more funds during the event, including gold coin donations, increasing sponsorship contributions and merchandising opportunities, reserved seating, multi-event passes and government grants.
"At the moment visitors don't translate to income for the festival. but with some minor changes it could produce substantial sums. It all adds up."
She said the trees were breathtakingly beautiful and the community participation was outstanding so the groundwork was already there to build on an already great festival and make it better.
"Not a lot has to change it's more about enhancing what you already have and restructuring events without losing its traditional spirit.
"There are festivals everywhere so it's important to offer visitors something different and the Jacaranda Festival does that. Now it's just a matter of keeping it going."