Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Tall Stacks asks county for $100,000

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Tall Stacks organizers on Monday asked Hamilton County to kick in $100,000 toward the October riverboat festival, saying it's expected to have a $41 million impact on the local economy.

The county itself will net $630,000 worth of sales taxes from hotel, food and souvenir sales, according to Tall Stacks' estimates.

The county commissioners made no decision, but Michael Smith, executive director of the festival, said it will go on with or without the contribution.

The riverfront festival, which drew 660,000 people in 1999, will take place Oct. 15-19 on the shores of the Ohio River. Adults can attend all five days of the festival by buying a $12 pin. Children under 12 will get in free.

"The whole goal was to make this as affordable as possible," Smith said.

The city of Cincinnati is putting $200,000 toward Tall Stacks' $11 million budget, and corporate sponsors include Fifth Third Bank, Kroger and Coca-Cola.

Tall Stacks began in 1988 as a celebration of Cincinnati's riverboat heritage. Attendance has dropped each time.

"It was frankly in danger of not happening in 2003," Smith said.

Tall Stacks has been retooled into the Music, Arts & Heritage Festival, with an all-star music lineup to be announced shortly. If that's successful, the festival could become an annual event.

"In a perfect world, the Music, Arts & Heritage Festival occurs every fall," Smith said.

He's expecting at least 400,000 people to attend this year. Smith, who is new to Tall Stacks management, also runs Riverbend Music Center for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Although the commissioners made no financial commitment Monday, Todd Portune asked county staff to look into the cost of sprucing up the area around the Cincinnati end of the Purple People Bridge. The bridge is likely to see some use during Tall Stacks, he noted, and the area is not an attractive gateway.


E-mail candrews@enquirer.com

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