GREEN RIVER – From the three-on-three basketball tournament to the popular concerts on Friday and Saturday night, Flaming Gorge Days is just 133 days away. On Tuesday, some depressing news about the event was discussed at the Sweetwater County Commission meeting.
The Flaming Gorge Day committee approached the Sweetwater County Commissioners about a funding request. The commissioners have provided some funding in the past and have already approved $3,500 for this year’s event that was added to the budget.
Chairman of the volunteer committee Deli Frantzen explained the event continues to grow and is starting to get recognition, not only in Wyoming, but in neighboring states. She said they have been recognized as one of the largest events in Wyoming by several groups and were contacted by Utah radio station KBER last year who did a live feed from last year’s Saturday night concert.
The committee also spoke about new events this year which they are hoping will fit into the popular event. This year they will feature a Battle of the Bands on Thursday which they are hoping will be free for residents. The winner will open for the bands playing on Friday and Saturday night. They are also planning a 5K glow run this year as well.
However, Frantzen explained the event has ran into financial trouble. With layoffs running through the oil and gas industry and related companies in Sweetwater County, the event is seeing the crunch. Committee member Dawn Trujillo said they have had a hard time keeping sponsors and an even harder time finding new sponsors for the event this year. The committee is even concerned they will not be able to attract volunteers needed to run the event. By this time in the past years, the event usually has 50 percent of all sponsorship. This year it is not close.
This year, the committee has had more of a focus on the financial recording of the event. The event lost $53,000 last year, and the committee said it was to do several things. The weather hurt attendance while the concerts also did not draw the crowds they had hoped for.
Flaming Gorge Days has been a part of the county for 59 years. Early success of the event allowed them to built up a reserve but in the last several years there has been a downward trend that hit an all-time low last year.
While this year’s financial request is already in the Commission budget, the committee asked the Commission for $100,000 for the 2016 event. The committee said without more funding, the event might end. They said if they lose the same amount of money this year, they will not have enough to put on the event in 2016.
The committee does receive funding from the city of Green River, and the committee reported they also spoke with Rock Springs, but the money is just not there to help them.
Commission Chairman Wally Johnson explained to the committee that the county is also going to be affected by the oil and gas drop-off. Sweetwater County Treasurer Robb Slaughter said it is very preliminary but going on two months of data, if the oil and gas prices stay where they are the county is looking at a $4 million decrease to the county in 2017.
The committee did point out to the Commission, the event adds to the budget through sales and lodging tax, and if the event goes away, that will also shrink.
Commissioner Reid West said the reason they have a lodging tax is to help fund these type of events. He asked if they had spoken to the Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism about the issue. The Travel and Tourism provides $3,000 currently, and the committee continues to work with them.
The committee also explained they have made cutbacks in the event with $30,000 cut in the talent portion alone this year. The committee said the amount of money spent on talent this year for both nights is less than what they spent for the Saturday night concert alone last year.
While the Commission was sympathetic to the issue, they had concerns about funding such a large amount for the event. While all the commissioners understand what is happening financially and were very supportive of the event, they had concerns about using taxpayer money to fund the event especially in the up and down financial climate.
Commissioner Randall Wendling said the Flaming Gorge has been a great event and with two sons, they would make family vacation plans around the event. He said if he happens to run into something that could help them he will definitely point them in the committee’s direction. He said the event needs to keep going and encouraged the committee to do everything they can to keep it going.
Johnson said the best thing for the group to do is submit a budget request to the commission for next year’s budget, and they will see what they can do as they work through the budget process.