National Folk Festival Year One Exceeds Expectations - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

National Folk Festival Year One Exceeds Expectations

Posted: Sep 13, 2018 10:42 PM -04:00 Updated:

SALISBURY, Md.- Despite some rainy weather last weekend, Mayor Jake Day says Salisbury showed up for the National Folk Festival.

The National Council for the Traditional Arts gave the city attendance projections of anywhere from 60-80,000 visitors in their first year.  Day says the city was skeptical of those numbers and thought if even 40,000 visitors came out, it would be a success.  But Day explains through data analytics, officials were able to determine that at least 61-63,000 visitors attended. 

"We started with how many unique cell phone devices entered the footprint. We have a very high-powered WiFi system that can tell us that information and was just established for this event," Day said. 

The WiFi improvements were specifically used to see how many unique devices entered the downtown area, but most of that technology has since been taken down until next year.  Day says the actual number is over 97,000 devices, but the city factored in potential variables for a conservative estimate. 

Day says despite the scattered showers throughout the weekend, the community supported the festival like he's never seen before. 

"If you look at Third Fridays when we've had weather issues or any outdoor events we're quick to cancel. We're quick to say 'no, it's off.' We're quick to not show up. And I think something was clearly different about this moment," Day said. 

While the exact amount raised towards next year's festival has not been determined yet, Day says there are certain projections they do know.  Donations came from both alcohol sales and bucket donations.  Cash donations are still being counted and should be locked down next week.  But alcohol sales showed 60% of beer from Evolution Craft Brewery, 50% of wine from Layton's Chance Winery and 200% of Hoop Tea will go into next year's festival.  Day says Hoop Tea sold out quickly and the organizers doubled the order half way through the weekend. 

A figure the city won't know for a while is the total economic impact from year one.  That direct impact was estimated to be between $15-30 million.  The impact will grow to between $35-60 million next year and ultimately rest at around $100 million by year three.  

Attendance is also likely to grow, while fundraising should decrease.  Day says while the NCTA projects attendance will double, he'd be happy with steady improvements. 

"Maybe 100 to 125,000 next year and I think that's my guess. But I'll be happy to be wrong and the NCTA to be right and for it to be 125,000 or more," Day said.

Some improvements Day hopes to fix for next year's festival is more communication on parking downtown.  He says the satellite parking lot at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center was over utilized, while there was still plenty of space at times in the downtown parking garage.  Before next year's festival he hopes to launch an app that could help visitors navigate parking, where to stay and what to do in Salisbury. 

Salisbury will be the host city for the National Folk Festival until 2020.  After that Day says with 100 percent certainty the city plans to continue with its own festival for years to follow. 

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