Thursday, July 10, 2003

Flight festival stuck on taxiway

Other Dayton free events blamed for pulling patrons away

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DAYTON, Ohio - Carl Tabler, of Corsicana, Texas, gazed at an empty Ferris wheel Wednesday as it twirled under dark clouds.

"Lame, lame, lame," said Tabler, who works for El Paisano, a Mexican restaurant from Texas. Tabler was at one of the two booths the restaurant had at the "Inventing Flight: Dayton 2003" celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight.

"I came up here, and it's not even worth it," he said, noting that he had only sold $30 to $40 worth of food so far. "How are we going to get paid?"

Turnout for the festival, which ends July 20, has been lower than expected, causing Inventing Flight, to cut its ticket prices and three vendors to leave, said William Roess, co-president of Inventing Flight.

"We were disappointed in the turnout here," Roess said. "(It) was because of a combination of all the other events - which we created - going on in other areas."

Other events included President Bush's visit Friday, a fireworks show that night and a festival over the weekend, all of which were free and attracted about 200,000 people total.

Ticket prices at Celebration Central were slashed Monday from $20 to $10 for adults, from $17 to $8 for seniors ages 60 and up and from $12 to free for children ages 15 and under.

"We realized people were going where all the free events were," Roess said. "We didn't want to compete with ourselves."

Inventing Flight, a nonprofit organization, spent $30 million to $35 million on the celebration and other anniversary-oriented items, Roess said. He said he's not sure if it will lose any money.

After dealing with low turnout and days of thunderstorms, some food vendors left Celebration Central, but "the ones who have remained are committed to staying," Roess said. Roess said he's getting calls from interested vendors.

It was "dead" at the Click Camera & Video booth Wednesday, said worker Beth Dowd, of Dayton.

After six hours, she had sold only three disposable cameras and a pack of batteries.

The Dayton business had a second booth at Orbit Zone, which features rides, but got rid of it and has reduced its number of workers at the remaining booth, Dowd said.

Becky Taylor, of Ashland, Ohio, who was selling corn dogs and onion rings at Orbit Zone, was staying optimistic.

"We're just going to hold out," she said. "It can't get any worse."


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