Concert series looks to city for help

by Sarah Melton

Mount Hollydays is hoping the City of Mount Holly will lend some financial support for the Alive After Five concert series.

Last year, Alive After Five held four concerts, but this year, the organization wants to host eight from 6:30 till 9:30 p.m. on the 200 block of South Main Street. The proposed event schedule is: May 27, Coming Up Brass; June 10, The Catalinas; June 24, The Embers; July 8, Holiday Band; July 22, The Showmen; Aug. 5, The Fantastic Shakers; Aug. 19, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs; and Sept. 2, Chairman of the Board.

Mount Hollydays board of directors member Todd Young estimated that the total cost of the concerts would be roughly $59,000. However, Mount Hollydays has asked the city to co-sponsor the event and pitch in $17,058, or a little more than $2,130 per concert. The city’s cost for each concert breaks down as follows: $200 for police officers, $145 for fire department staff and $1,787 for streets and solid waste staff.

During the Jan. 13 city council meeting, Mount Holly Mayor Bryan Hough asked Mount Hollydays president Carol Ann Featherstone if the organization would ask the city to co-sponsor the event annually.

“We hope at some point in time to be on our own, but that is yet to come,” she said. “This is something new and we don’t know how things are going to go, but we hope at some point we can be self-sufficient.

Mount Hollydays wants to completely overhaul the Alive After Five program. First, the nonprofit organization wants to change the event’s name to Mount Holly Nights to set the city apart from other municipalities that host similar events with the same name.

Alive After Five will feature a beer and wine garden, food vendors and children’s activities and a ferris wheel at the last concert. Alcohol has not been present at the event in the past, and Mount Hollydays feels the beer and wine garden will draw a larger crowd. But City Manager Danny Jackson said that the “expansion of an area for alcohol could be problematic from a practical standpoint” and “ultimate road access could weigh into the matter.” Jackson recommended that if the council decided to co-sponsor the event, the city should not be listed as a co-sponsor on any advertisements due to the use of alcohol.

Also, Mount Hollydays wants to work with the Belmont Merchants Association, an organization that has typically drawn 15,000 people to Belmont with its concerts for the past several years. Together, the two organizations could promote each other to make Belmont and Mount Holly bigger and better.

“If there are mistakes to be made, we have a model we are following through one of our neighbors who have been through five or six years of growth,” Featherstone said. “They know their mistakes. They know what they did wrong and they have been so wonderful to impart that information to keep us from making the same mistakes they made in the past.”

Mount Hollydays wants to bring in as many crowds, if not more, as the Belmont Merchants Association.

“We are placing ourselves in a money-making situation in getting people to Mount Holly to spend their dollars, to have a good time and to see what Mount Holly is about,” Young said. “This is the big picture. This is what we are all about – kicking it into hyper drive.”

A majority of the funding for Alive After Five comes from sponsorships and donations. Last year, the event had 81 sponsors, including five title sponsors and one grand sponsor. Many of those sponsors have verbally expressed an interest in sponsoring the event again this year, Featherstone said.

Some council members expressed concern about using the city’s funds to help pay for Alive After Five.

“How do you spend money you don’t have?” Councilman Jim Hope added. “At this time, we don’t have money for anything.”

Featherstone suggested that the city explore using its tourism funds to help pay for Alive After Five.

“I think one of the things this council needs to understand is we are a board of 10 and there has been work done as a board of 20 or 30 people by these 10 folks,” she said. “It’s a lot of time and effort and as I said when I came to you in November, if we don’t have the contracts signed by the end of January 2011, Alive After Five, or whatever you want to call it, is in the trash.”

Councilman David Moore said that he understood Mount Hollydays was under a time restraint to get contracts signed with the performers, but “we got to figure out a way to fund this.”

Hough said that the council needed to consider the economic impact that Alive After Five would bring to the city before making a final decision. He said that the event would not only bring more people to Mount Holly, but also would help the retail businesses and restaurants downtown.

“We have to support our downtown businesses,” Hough said. “I think everybody would agree with that. This is one way the city can support people coming to downtown and our businesses. I see the cost, but I also see the investment in downtown, the investment in the merchants and the investment in opportunity.”

The council will vote on Mount Hollydays’ request at its 6:30 p.m. work session on Monday, Jan. 24.

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