Swiss Wine Festival: more than fun, it provides economic impact here

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For four days every August, the people of Switzerland County along with thousands of visitors from around the county come to the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park to enjoy the Swiss Wine Festival.

From the contests to the pageants to entertainment and the parade, the Swiss Wine Festival has established itself as the premier festival in Southern Indiana and one of the best in the entire state. Each year thousands of visitors crowd the attractions and booths; and each year the festival committee works to make the next year’s festival even better than ones in the past.

But the Swiss Wine Festival is more than fun for the community – it is an economic powerhouse.

Festival President Kirk Works said that each year the festival not only provides entertainment to its visitors, but also provides funds for organizations and clubs that work different events for the benefit of their causes.

This year, the festival donated $31,761.47 to 35 different organizations and clubs. That’s up from $23,159.48 – an increase of 37.14-percent.

“The festival gives back to the community to local organizations and clubs; as well as prize money,” Kirk Works said. “There’s also goods and services that we purchase from Switzerland County businesses. There’s a lot of money that goes into the festival, and we pay a lot out that benefits many people. Other than a foundation, I don’t believe there’s any other event that’s having that big of an impact on the county.”

Along with the donations to organizations and clubs; in 2012 the Swiss Wine Festival gave out $7,157 in scholarships and prize money – up 1.88-percent from the 2011 total of $7,025 (it should be noted that an increase was achieved even though the Prince portion of the Festival Royalty Scholarship Program was discontinued, which reduced the amount of scholarship money paid).

The festival also spend $121,584.50 purchasing goods and services from Switzerland County for-profit businesses – an increase of more than 30-percent over the previous year.

Overall, the 2012 Swiss Wine Festival had a direct economic impact in the community of $160,502.97. That’s an increase of $36,926.52 over the year before – 29.88-percent.

In terms of numbers, when local organizations and clubs are paired with for-profit businesses, this year 102 different entities received some type of economic impact from the Swiss Wine Festival.

And the festival organizing committee has no real way to account for the additional secondary economic impact that the festival has – from visitors stopping at local restaurants or gas stations on their way into or out of town; visitors who stay in local hotels or bed and breakfasts; or visitors who spend time at Belterra Casino Resort and Spa while in Switzerland County.

Add to that manpower hours that are donated. The 13 members board of directors of the festival are volunteers, along with approximately a dozen event chairpersons, and they attend monthly meetings year round planning for the upcoming festival. During festival week and the festival itself, countless other volunteers give of their time to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

It all comes together to make a huge impact in the community.

“It’s quite a bit when you add it all up,” Kirk Works said.

After all of the donations and bills have been paid, Kirk Works said that the festival itself has just under $20,000 left to use and build on for the 2013 Swiss Wine Festival, and the group is always looking for ways to make the event bigger and better.

There are also physical improvements that are a benefit to the community for the rest of the year other than just four days in August.

“We do a lot of capital. We spend a lot of money on blacktop and electrical upgrades,” Kirk Works said. “The electrical upgrades provided the community with the ability to have the Christmas displays up that are in the park right now. The additional blacktop helps the car show be more successful, so many of the upgrades that the festival has put in have a real benefit at other times of the year.”

Kirk Works said that studies show that the economic impact of money coming into the community is more than just that day; because the average dollar spent ‘turns over’ four or five times in the same community. When the festival makes a purchase from a local business, part of that payment goes to pay the salary of the person working there; who takes that money and makes purchases at the local grocery store; which uses it to pay its employees; which fill their gas tank up at a local station or make their utility payment – and that same dollar continues to have benefit here.

“When you’re spending as much money as we’re spending, there is a real positive impact on our entire economy,” Kirk Works said. “It’s incredible how much money funnels through the community.”

Also making things possible are the businesses and organizations who make donations to help the festival grow and prosper. The community has embraced the festival and supports it – which makes it possible for the festival to return the ‘economic favor’.

But the real impact of the Swiss Wine Festival is the support of the individuals who buy the tickets and eat the food and allow their children and grandchildren to ride the amusement rides while they shop and make purchases at the festival’s arts and craft booths. Individuals and organizations build floats for the parade and participate in things such as the motorcycle poker run and the basketball tournament and the Little Swiss Polka Dancers – and all of that helps to create a festival that people want to come and attend.

And spend money.

– Pat Lanman