Creating events to lure in new visitors and keep them coming back is the goal behind a state grant program. The Montana Office of Tourism recently awarded 17 Special Event Grants to 12 towns to help them grow and develop events. The office works under the state Department of Commerce and handed out a total of $200,000 in grants.
Polson received $6,900 for its summertime Cherry Festival, and the Flathead Jazz Society won $5,000 for the Glacier Jazz Stampede. The city of Kalispell also received two other grants totaling more than 60-thousand-dollars. One grant is to start a new event, the other, to continue the Montana Dragon Boat Festival which celebrated its first competition on Flathead Lake September 8,2012
Director of the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau Diane Medler says they received $29,300 to market and promote the event. She says the first festival drew 56 teams from Canada, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, as well as Montana, and this grant will let them expand the event.
“For the 2013 Festival, this has also enabled us to increase the event to a 2-day event, which is done primarily for one reason- because this is what travelling Dragon Boat club teams expect,” Medler said.
Kalispell also received a $31,000 grant to start off the Pond Hockey Border Showdown in February 2014. Medler says both pond hockey and Dragon boat racing are popular in Canada.
“February is cold, and there’s snow, and we’ve got beautiful lakes surrounded by beautiful scenery, so, again, kind of like Dragon Boats; how can we use our natural resources, showcase our natural resources in a respectful way, and bring people down here, and have some fun,” Medler said they want to “work on the edges of summer and gradually get our shoulder season months; fall and spring, to be busier, and then into winter as well.”
The Department of Commerce calls for the money to be spent promoting the event outside of a 100-mile radius. The Kalispell events in particular are tapping into the Canadian market and targeting Calgary, Alberta.
The grant money comes from the state bed tax.
Other Special Event Grant Program award winners include Missoula’s International Choral Festival and Celtic Festival, Virginia City’s Madison Duathlon, Marathon and Triathlon, Helena’s Running Amok for Scholarship Bucks, The Montana State Fair in Great Falls and others.